Mike Tyson, handball, and the story behind Ireland's newest sports magazine

Two “handball nerds” are working to give one of the GAA’s original sports the coverage that it deserves.

Paul Brady: Cavan's four-time world champion is the sport's main man.
Paul Brady: Cavan's four-time world champion is the sport's main man.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

ON THE COVER of Rollout Handball, the new Irish magazine which makes its debut this month, there’s a photo of Mike Tyson.

In 1987, as the Baddest Man on the Planet was training for his world heavyweight title defence against Tony Tucker, he traded his boxing gloves for handball ones.

The story of Tyson, his manager Jimmy Jacobs and their connection to one of the GAA’s original games is just one snippet from the sport’s long, often forgotten history.

Even now as it experiences something of a golden era led by Cavan’s four-time world champion Paul Brady, coverage in mainstream media is minimal — if it even exists.

“People who don’t know handball dismiss it as a small, niche sport,” explains journalist Paul Fitzpatrick, one of the magazine’s two founders.

“People think it’s a mickey mouse game but the Handball Council has 4,000 members.

We’ve got a situation where it’s a fairly sizable underground sport but it gets absolutely no publicity.

Together with co-collaborator Mark McGowan, Fitzpatrick resolved to give the sport more of the in-depth coverage that he would like to read himself.

In January they set up the Rollout Handball website and, encouraged by its success, decided to branch out into a 48-page print quarterly.

Along with the Tyson feature, the debut issue includes an article on Brady’s supreme dominance and the young pretenders lining up to take his throne, and another on the sport’s long relationship with some of hurling’s biggest names.

“In terms of coverage, handball might get a couple of paragraphs in the national papers every so often but that’s just results,” Fitzpatrick says.

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“In terms of actual content about the game or how it was won, you’re never going to see that anywhere.”

So far the response has been positive. They got together some advertising by tapping into the passionate handball community and the magazine’s initial run of 1100 copies is on course to sell out, Fitzpatrick says.

On that evidence, he’s confident that there will be enough demand to sustain the magazine going forward.

As a self-professed “handball nerd”, he always suspected as much.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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