World champions are a rarity in GAA circles, except in handball, that is, and during October 2009 over 30 world titles arrived in Ireland with many of them heading to Ulster. That is something that just cannot be ignored and we selected two of the best to share our Quinn-Insurance/UGAAWA Merit Award for last month.

Fiona Shannon and Paul Brady not only won the World Women’s and Men’s Open titles in Portland, Oregon, but they also created a record that is only likely to be beaten by them. It was the third consecutive time that the pair won their respective titles – the first players to achieve such a feat. And remember the World Championships are played only every third year!

Fiona defeated US and Canadian opposition on her way to the final in which she, as expected, clashed with her St Paul’s (Belfast) club colleague Aisling Reilly who is now just one slot behind the winner in the world rankings. Paul retained his title with a string of wins over mostly US opposition but, unlike in 2003 and 2006, he didn’t face Cork’s Tony Healy in the decider. It was Luis Moreno from Arizona who fared no better than Healy had done previously.

As well as winning the Women’s Open Singles, Fiona Shannon collected the doubles title along with her sister Sibéal Gallagher. Brady, because of a quad muscle injury pulled out of the men’s doubles which he won last time along with his Kingscourt club mate Michael Finnegan.

As their awards, Paul and Fiona receive an UGAAWA sports voucher, an engraved Belleek China vase, specially designed jewellery from Omeath’s Garrett Mallon – cuff links and pendant – plus training gear from O’Neill’s International Sports.

Paul Brady, who is studying in London, was unable to attend the presentation, made by Declan Reilly, Quinn-Insurance Manager, at Quinn’s Corner but Fiona Shannon was there to accept her award.

Also getting a special mention were the lady footballers of St Paul’s Belfast and Donaghmoyne who won Ulster Championship titles last month.

Quinn Insurance manager Declan Reilly (left) and UGAAWA chairman Jerry Quinn present Womens' Open Handball champion Fiona Shannon with the October '09 Merit Award.

Picture:© Michael Cullen