‘A moment in his time was a moment to savour’ by Paul Fitzpatrick
We call them ball alleys and if walls could talk, they’d have some stories to tell about handball’s golden age, when big tournaments could attract 1,200 players and the superstars truly were household names. And in that glorious period, for a couple of decades on from the 1950s, no star burned as brightly as Joseph Patrick ‘Joey’ Maher.
Born in Drogheda in 1934, Maher – who passed away suddenly a fortnight ago – was a man who could turn his hand to anything.
He was a painter, a handballer, a musician, a publican, a champion greyhound trainer and, in Canada, a cop.
As a young man, he would travel down the coast to places like Taghmon, Co Wexford to play. On the way home, he’d stop in Arklow, Gorey, Delvin or Kells; wherever he spotted a game going on, he’d join in and bedazzle the locals.
That was where he learned his trade, and he became a master. In 1964, he won his way to the play at the World Championships in the New York Athletic Club, a gleaming, world-class athletic facility overlooking leafy Central Park.
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