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National League basketball: Killarney’s new favourite team are off to a flyer




National League (Division 1), Scotts Lakers 76, Dublin Lions 75

KILLARNEY’S return to National League basketball may have been long overdue but Saturday night’s pulsating season opener was well worth the wait. Over 500 eager spectators packed into the Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre to see St Paul’s (playing under the Scotts Lakers banner) get their Division 1 campaign up and running - and not a single home supporter left disappointed.

With Bulgarian guard Mihail Kapitanov pulling the strings and local lads Andrew Fitzgerald and Pádraig Lucey making their presence felt down low, the Lakers raced into an 8-3 lead. The Dublin Lions responded well, however, and some sloppy offense from the home team helped the visitors to go on a 12-0 run. The Lakers rallied but a three-point buzzer-beater from Zach Burnett meant the Lions led by 8 (15-23) at the end of the first.

Both teams looked a little shaky in the opening quarter which, to be fair, is totally understandable. For many players it was their first time lining out together in a competitive game and there were bound to have been some opening night jitters.

Coach Vojkan Bencic would have been far happier with his team’s showing in the second quarter as, incredibly, the Lakers limited the opposition to just four points in the entire ten-minute period. Fitzgerald and club captain Philip O’Connor, who started from the bench, impressed but it was San Francisco native Justin Tuason who really came to the fore as the half wore on.

The silky guard, who formerly lined out with Neptune in Cork, really caught the eye with a string of highlight plays that energised teammates and spectators alike.

He set up big man Lucey with a flashy behind-the-back pass to give the Lakers a 28-26 lead before knocking down a three off a Kapitanov assist. The Lions cut the deficit with a free throw but Tuason hit another field goal at the horn to make it 33-27 at the half.

It may have been a very low-scoring encounter but Tuason’s enthusiasm was contagious as the atmosphere began to slowly build in the sold-out arena.

Neither team flew out of the traps in the second half but again it was Tuason who provided the spark when he scored, forced a turnover and scored again to open up a commanding 11-point lead midway through the third.

The Lions fought back well, however, and despite big three-pointers from Kapitanov and O’Connor, the Lakers led by just five (52-47) at the end of the third.

It was 62-54 with six minutes to play and the home crowd smelled blood, but an unbelievable 11–point scoring burst from Lions guard Burnett turned the tie on its head.

The Lakers desperately needed a response and Tuason duly obliged, pulling up to hit a spectacular three in spite of the contact to make it a tie game. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete what would have been a remarkable four-point play.

The Lakers trailed by three with two minutes to go but lay-ups from Fitzgerald, Tuason and Lucey made it 71-68 with a minute on the clock. The visitors went to the line to hit two free shots with 43 seconds to go and the Lakers came forward in search of a potentially game-winning basket.

Just a few short seconds into the shot clock, the Lions failed to track O’Connor off a screen and when Kapitanov found him in the corner, the former Irish international made no mistake to drain the three and open up a four-point lead with just 35 to play.

The Lions scrambled to find an opening but tight Killarney defence kept them at bay. A kick ball meant the shot clock was reset to 14 but, with 15.7 seconds remaining on the game clock, all the Lakers had to do was not foul.

What happened next was hard to believe. Main man Burnett gathered the inbounds in the corner, turned, nailed the three… and was fouled. Luckily for Tuason, the alleged culprit, Burnett missed from the line. Kapitanov, one of the smallest players on the floor, gathered the rebound and was immediately fouled and with the Lions over the limit, the Bulgarian went to the line.

Kapitanov showed great composure to hit the clutch free throws and the Lakers were 76-73 up with 12 to go. Once again, all they had to do was not foul.

Astoundingly, Andrew Fitzgerald was called for a foul before the ball was even inbounded, resulting in two free throws and possession for the opposition. The Lions player certainly exaggerated the contact but nevertheless it seemed as though the Lakers were hell-bent on throwing this one away.

Both free-throws were made to make it a one-point game and all of a sudden the Lions had 11 seconds (and the ball) to get the winner. Burnett drove to the basket but Pádraig Lucey denied him at the rim with a huge block. The Dubliners secured the offensive rebound, missed the jump shot, corralled another board, and missed again from close range.

Somehow the Lakers held on for the victory. It was a thrilling start to life back in the big time but Coach Bencic and his players will be well aware that their game management will have to be infinitely better if they’re to prosper going forward.

Kapitanov, Tuason, O’Connor and Mark Greene all looked good in the back court and with star man Antuan Bootle, who was absent through injury, set to return and bolster the forward division, there’s definitely the makings of a good team there.

Supporters at The Auracle (see what I did there?) certainly got their money’s worth on Saturday night. Personally I can’t wait for the next home game.

Lakers top scorers: J Tuason (21), P Lucey (14) and A Fitzgerald (11).

Lions top scorers: Z Burnett (26), I Markiewicz (16) and H Natsiyanwa (10).

Upcoming fixtures:
September 23: LIT Celtics (away) at 6pm
September 30: BFG Neptune (home) at 7.30pm

Above: Justin Tuason, Scotts Lakers St Pauls, scores a basket over Michael Goj, Dublin Lions in the national league division one basketball clash in Killarney Sports Centre on Saturday night. Picture: Eamonn Keogh



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Fossa School says ‘bonjour’ to French classes



Fossa National School is giving its pupils a headstart in learning a new language.

The school signed up to Language Sampler scheme as part of the ‘Say Yes to Languages’ initiative in primary schools organised by Post Primary languages Ireland in 2021. This is the school’s third year running the module.

Hélène Olivier-Courtney, the school’s French teacher and director of French For All Killarney School of French, covers ten schools in Kerry over the three terms.

The success of the initiative relies on an all-school approach and the active involvement of class teachers and management.

“The whole staff in Fossa certainly helped make this new journey a special and enjoyable experience for the children as we learnt French through art, songs, games and food tasting! This year, we also organised a catwalk on our last day. Our sixth-class students will have such a head start before secondary school and most importantly will have develop curiosity interest and love for the language,” said Hélène.


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Opinion: Silent majority needs to stand up and call out far-right hate



By Chris Davies

Last Friday’s Dublin Riots should not have come as a surprise to anyone. It has been bubbling under the surface of Irish society for a good number of years now. The actions of a small minority last week was a culmination of years of racism, hatred and misinformation shared online by far-right groups.

Late on Friday night a disturbing WhatsApp voice note was doing the rounds on social media where a far-right actor could clearly be heard encouraging violence on the streets of Dublin. 

“’Seven o’clock, be in town. Everyone bally up, tool up…Any foreigner, just kill them”

Watching the Riots unfold on social media brought me back to when I was working in Dublin a number of years back. My morning commute from Skerries to the city centre involved a dart to Connolly Station followed by a short trip on the Luas to the Jervis. Every week, without fail, I would witness at least one racial slur or attack on someone who didn’t fit the narrow minded view of what an Irish person should look, dress or talk like. I don’t know if it is the eerie silence of public transport that seems to amplify the situation, but that’s where I found it to be most common. The abuse was usually perpetrated by a group of youths or someone who was clearly under the influence of drink or drugs. The victims were always of colour, often dressed smartly enough to presume they were on their way, or coming from work. A far cry from the perpetrators who you could tell were roaming aimlessly around the city looking for trouble.

While shameful to admit, I would often look on and watch the abuse unfold, only to spend the rest of my work day thinking about the poor person who was told to “F*&K off back to your own country”. I would sit at my desk questioning why I didn’t step in and say something. There were one or two occasions where I did step in and call it out, but not nearly often enough.  

This disgusting behaviour is much more visible in our cities. Since moving back to Killarney I wouldn’t witness as much direct abuse on the streets but working with the Killarney Advertiser I would be tuned in to local news and some of the comments I read on our social platforms are far worse than anything I witnessed during my time in Dublin.  

There is a significant group of people in Ireland that I would call the ‘silent majority’. We are not as outspoken on issues we care about. We tend to observe and consume the news quietly, and only speak of our support or disgust on certain issues in close circles, too afraid we might offend someone. The problem with this is that we are leaving these far-right groups unchallenged, to become louder, more aggressive and more hostile as seen last week. 

The past week Sinn Fein and the Social Democrats have been busy in the media expressing no confidence in Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Garda Commissioner Drew Harris but I would suggest that there is a large percentage of the Irish population that bears some of the responsibility. We witness racism in our communities and online every day and we need to start speaking up and calling it out. 

On the issue of immigration in Killarney, there is no doubt resources are being stretched and our tourism industry is suffering as a result of an influx of immigration. Locals have also raised concerns in relation to the placement of so many male international protection applicants in one setting and we only have to look back on the incident in Hotel Killarney last year where a number of men were involved in a harrowing stabbing incident to see how that played out.  

However, being concerned around immigration is not the same as anti-immigration. It is important to raise these issues with local representatives and Kerry TD’s but also to separate ourselves from far-right groups who are only interested in encouraging violence.  

The anarchy we witnessed last week should never be the answer and research shows it is completely unnecessary. Harvard University have looked at hundreds of protests over the last century, and found that non-violent campaigns are twice as likely to achieve their goals as violent campaigns and that it only takes around 3.5% of the population actively participating in the protests to ensure serious political change.

Let’s continue to protest peacefully for issues we believe in, but stand up and speak out against people and movements in our community that incite hate and violence. 

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