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Killarney hoopers ready for long-awaited tip-off

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by Adam Moynihan

After a frustrating year-and-a-half of inactivity due to COVID-19, Killarney’s two Men’s National League teams will finally take to the floor this weekend as the race for the 2021/22 Division 1 title gets underway across the country.

While other sports have gone ahead intermittently in 2020 and 2021, and most have been back in full swing for a number of months now, basketballers in Ireland have been forced to sit on the sidelines throughout the pandemic. This has been due to stricter guidelines when it comes to indoor activities but with those restrictions now (hopefully) a thing of the past, it’s time to play some ball.

It promises to be a very interesting season indeed for Killarney basketball fans, who now have two teams to follow at National League level. It is a remarkable turn of events considering the fact that in the not too distant past we had no teams at all competing at this grade.

More learned observers than this journalist have questioned whether or not a town of Killarney’s size can maintain two National League teams. Well, readers, we’re about to find out.

COUGARS

Let’s start with the new kids on the block.

We say “new” but in reality many of the Killarney Cougars players will be very familiar to local basketball supporters, and even more familiar to their crosstown rivals. Mark Greene, Justin Tuason, Andy Fitzgerald and other squad members have previously represented the Lakers in the National League, a fact that is sure to add some extra spice to the December 30 fixture between the two town clubs.

The 2020/21 campaign was meant to be the Cougars’ first at national level but COVID put paid to those plans. Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser this week, Greene said he and his teammates can’t wait to get out on the court.

“We’re very excited to finally get going,” the Killarney native said. “We had a long time off the court – I think we had around four weeks of proper training last year – so it’s great that the new season is starting now on Saturday.”

Basketball seemed to take a back seat in the public discourse around the resumption of sporting activities but Greene is not surprised. Like other Irish basketball players, he has grown accustomed to his chosen sport playing second fiddle to the big-hitters.

“We all know that soccer and the GAA are going to take precedent. They’re more professional and more popular in this country, and they’re outdoor as well which helps with the COVID restrictions. With the nature of basketball being indoors and close contact, it’s always going to be bottom of the pile. Especially, as I said, with the popularity of it as well. It hasn’t been too frustrating from that point of view because it was to be expected.”

Under the guidance of experienced head coach Ignas Sijanas, the Cougars, who will play their home games in the Pres Gym, have assembled a decent-looking squad. It’s one that Greene feels is capable of being competitive at the second highest level of Irish basketball, although he is still hopeful that they can bring in a couple more players to bolster their roster.

“We’d probably want one or two more bodies,” he admitted. “We have four or five guys on the fringes, we don’t know if they’re coming with us or not, and we could do with one or two of them to get a nice rotation going. But we’re not too bad. We’ll be competitive anyway.

“Mark O’Shea is after joining from Ballincollig, he’s looking very good. Conor Flynn has joined from Killorglin. Con O’Mahony is coming in from Farranfore, we’re expecting good minutes from him. Billy Wiseman is there to give Andy a break. And Jack Lynch is looking like a promising young player as well.

“We want to see if this project can work: building a solid foundation with local players, not being heavily reliant on imports.

"Let’s see if we can get some good results, be competitive and maybe that fourth spot (the final qualification spot from the southern conference) won’t be a million miles away. I think UL, Mathews and Demons look like shoo-ins on paper anyway, so I think that fourth spot could be between ourselves, Paul’s (Lakers), Portlaoise… That could be in the sights.”

The Cougars get their season up and running by welcoming one of those top teams, the UCC Demons, to the Pres Gym on Saturday. Tip-off: 7.30pm.

LAKERS

Although they are now facing into their fourth season back in the big leagues, the Scotts Lakers are also heading into uncharted waters. They have a new coach in Jarlath Lee and a young roster that is virtually unrecognisable from the last time they took to the court for an official game.

That being said, they certainly have plenty of talent at their disposal. Local lads Mark O’Shea and Dylan O’Sullivan will be joined by former St Paul’s Super League player Dainius Varanauskas, 6’5” Bulgarian Emilian Grudov, and Canadian point guard Ben Miller, who has returned to the club having initially signed up for the abandoned 2020/21 season.

Miller says the initial set-back of missing out on his first season in Irish basketball due to COVID was a “little frustrating”, but he is now ready to lead the Lakers to a run at the playoffs.

“I think our goal is to be at the top of the league, or at least in the top couple of spots. I know we’re a bit younger (as a squad), but I think that will be a realistic goal for us.

“We’re filling in some pieces now and adding a bit more depth. The squad is shaping up pretty well. Our young players have a lot of talent and a lot of potential. They’re really willing to learn and work at the game; it’s been fun meeting them and trying to teach them a thing or two.”

Miller will be the team’s primary ball carrier and he hopes he can use all his experience to propel the Lakers to a successful season.

“I hope to be a steady, consistent player who shares the ball with everyone and does what it takes to get wins.”

This year the Lakers will return to the Killarney Sports and Leisure Centre with their first home game coming on November 13 against UCC Demons. The side’s opening fixture sees them take on the Limerick Celtics away on Saturday.

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Public welcome to see Kilcummin’s new state-of-the-art facilities

By Michelle Crean With brand new dressing rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and gym, a referee’s room, a training pitch, and a new walking track, locals are keen to show off their new facilities. Kilcummin GAA Club are now inviting the public to the official opening of their new facilities on Sunday next (October 24). It […]

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By Michelle Crean

With brand new dressing rooms, a state-of-the-art fitness centre and gym, a referee’s room, a training pitch, and a new walking track, locals are keen to show off their new facilities.

Kilcummin GAA Club are now inviting the public to the official opening of their new facilities on Sunday next (October 24).

It will kick-off at 2.30pm by County Board Chairman Tim Murphy and all are welcome to attend.

“Members and non-members are welcome to come and take a look around and to be a part of this important occasion,” PRO for the club, Mike O’Riordan, said.

The upgrading of the club facilitates, which started in 2019, was made possible by generous support of club members and supporters from near and far, as well as funding received from the Munster Council and Sports Capital Grants.

The Executive and the Development Committee of the club have worked hard to bring the project to fruition but it is the countless hours of the dedicated and committed volunteers that ensured it became a reality.

“It could not have happened without this collective effort. The new facilities are a huge source of pride for the club and local community and the official opening is an event to celebrate this huge community project.”

Club officers will be available to chat to anyone interested in memberships of the fitness centre or walking track and club merchandise will be available to purchase on the day. Light refreshments will be served.

“A Céad Míle Fáilte is extended to all,” he said.

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Eileen rewarded for her dedication to athletics

By Sean Moriarty Well-known Dalton’s Avenue woman Eileen Switzer has been named as the Honorary President of Killarney Valley Athletic Club in recognition of her work as a volunteer. The club held its annual awards night on Friday night last. As well as presenting awards to club members in recognition of their achievements at home […]

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By Sean Moriarty

Well-known Dalton’s Avenue woman Eileen Switzer has been named as the Honorary President of Killarney Valley Athletic Club in recognition of her work as a volunteer.

The club held its annual awards night on Friday night last.

As well as presenting awards to club members in recognition of their achievements at home and abroad they decided to honour Mrs Switzer for her “lifetime of volunteering to the community, to sport, to youth and for championing diversity and inclusion”.

“Eileen has been an advocate, a coach and an administrator in the sport of athletics for over 60 years in the town of Killarney, Kerry and beyond,” said club chair Jerry Griffin.

Eileen and her husband Frank have dedicated their lives to the community games and athletics in the greater Killarney area.

“I enjoy, but I don’t like, all the limelight,” she told the Killarney Advertiser.

“I like to watch newcomers as they come up through the ranks, many of the Community Games people of the past are now running the committee.”

In a life time dedicated to volunteerism in Killarney Eileen has helped sports like golf, pitch and putt and badminton grow.  She was also heavily involved in the local Irish dancing scene and remains a great supporter of Kerry Parents and Friends.

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