Talking Sport with Stephen Glennon
THERE is a major event on the horizon for Maree Basketball Club in the coming weeks as their senior men’s team make the step up to the Super League for the first time. Adding to the sense of anticipation is that their opening fixture is a local derby – against fellow Galway outfit, Moycullen.
Having won back-to-back Division 1 titles over the past two seasons, there is great excitement around Maree and Oranmore ahead of the local side’s debut in basketball’s top flight, where they will face such superpowers as Belfast Star, Templeogue, Swords Thunder and Kieran Donaghy’s Tralee Warriors over the course of their campaign.
For Maree’s rising star, Eoin Rockall, the club’s promotion to the Super League is a testament to the huge volume of work undertaken by a core group of basketball enthusiasts in the area, including senior team coach, John Finn.
“John has been coaching me since I was under 15 or 16 – he has been coaching the rest of the lads right through from underage – and he has been with the senior team for as long as I can remember,” says Rockall, who also sings the praises of Joe Shields, Karen Jordan, Mary O’Hagan, Noreen O’Connell and his own mum, Mary.
“So, there are a lot of people actually, but obviously John Finn and Joe Shields are our two most famous coaches. There are about nine or 10 on the committee who run everything really. They have done a great job.”
No doubt, Maree is a club on the rise and that was no more reflected than at this year’s Basketball Ireland Annual Awards, where Rockall was presented with the Division 1 Young Player of the Year award – for the second year running – while Finn was awarded the Division 1 Coach of the Year accolade.
In addition, Rockall, Kenneth Hansberry and Paulius Peldzius all received Division One All Star awards while Eoin’s sister, Claire, who these days plays her club basketball with Ambassador UCC Glanmire, received an All-Star and the Women’s Super League Player of the Year gong.
The club’s success has also translated with players from all age grades featuring on Ireland teams. Rockall, himself, lined out with Ireland’s U-20 over the Summer – as did Alison Blaney for the U-20 women – while Maggie Byrne and Dayna Finn were members of the Ireland U-18 side that won silver at the European Championships last month.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.