Cork superstar and current World Handball Champion Killian Carroll, who is now based in Boston, speaks to GAA Handball as part of the latest Showcase Your Sport edition.
How have you been coping in lockdown?
I’ve been coping in lockdown better than others. I haven’t been going stir crazy because I’ve still been working most days of the week as a labourer. Also, it has given me time to work out a bit more now that all the handball is off, and work on different parts of my life and even handball game without playing handball.
I haven’t played in a 4-Wall court since the last US Tour tournament in February but I played a bit of 1-Wall two weeks ago. So that was the only handball I’ve had since the shutdown.
What age did you start playing, and what was it you liked about the sport?
I began playing when I was six, which was the starting age at our Club. I liked handball for many reasons. You get a lot more playing time then most sports. You are the only person who could make an impact and you couldn’t blame anyone else if things went wrong. It’s very challenging and at the same time it is very rewarding.
Did you have any early breakthroughs?
My big breakthrough came when playing the trials for the Irish team for the 2008 US Junior Nationals. That’s what really opened my eyes at what handball had to offer. Competing on that international stage and the huge deal and hype that surrounded it was nothing short of amazing. I believe everything snowballed from there.
Did you play other sports growing up and, if so, to what level? Was there a point when you decided that you had to focus everything you had on handball?
I played every sport I was exposed to in my home town with the exception of rugby and golf. I was never really any good at sports. I had just one thing in common, I hated to lose and I would always try my best. I gave up all other sports when I was about 14 to focus everything on handball. I wish now that I didn’t because I believe playing multiple sports is better for your body and also for your sport.
When you broke through into senior handball, you quickly rose through the ranks and began to develop a rivalry with the legendary Paul Brady. Can you tell us about that?
I don’t know if you would call it a rivalry or just that we’ve had tense experiences in the past.
When I was younger watching the seniors I always felt annoyed about the fact that everyone thought Paul was too good and it wasn’t even worth trying to reach him. I even heard one time that people were waiting for him to retire so they could try and claim that number one spot.
For me, that sparked a vision that being the best wasn’t good enough and the All-Ireland wasn’t the title in my mind, Brady was, because of the player he is. The most dominant, feared, respected, best player handball has ever seen to date.
I was always chasing him, not titles, because he was the title in my mind. To me I saw him as an enemy because I had to. But I have the utmost respect for him as a handballer as to me he is the only professional I have ever seen in my lifetime and one must admire the level he reached in his career.
I hope our rivalry isn’t over and we see each other in the future. I know he’s not as good as he was in his prime. I don’t think I’ve ever played him at his best but still he’s one hell of a player and brings something very exciting to the court.
Where do you train?
Here in the States, I train at the Boston Athletic Club which is located in South Boston. It only has one court and is very expensive but the gym facilities are great. Also, I train at the New York Athletic Club when I’m in New York.
Before competitions, I stop all damaging training which means I train a lot less and when I train, it’s not intense at all, just to make sure I’m sharpening my skills or learning something new and making sure my body is ready to tackle the tournament.
Do you see yourself returning home to compete in the All-Ireland Senior Singles at some stage?
I will return home to play the All Ireland Championship once more just to experience Irish handball at its best and also try to achieve an All-Ireland at senior level but I will see in the coming months, as I will have a better Idea with travel and when handball returns and the schedule as well!
Where do you think Killian Carroll will be in five to ten years’ time?
I see myself five years from now stepped away from full-time handball, focusing more on my future and also more with training kids. Saying that, I believe I will be playing handball tournaments for as long as I can in every age division.