Wednesday 7 December 2016

Donaghy the 'pied piper' in basketball's Tralee return

Barry Lennon

Published 04/11/2016 | 02:30

Kieran Donaghy in action for St Brendan's Tralee in last year's Intermediate Basketball Cup Final. Picture credit: Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE
Kieran Donaghy in action for St Brendan's Tralee in last year's Intermediate Basketball Cup Final. Picture credit: Sam Barnes / SPORTSFILE

While question marks hang over Kieran Donaghy's championship football future, there's no such doubt about his involvement in this year's basketball league.

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The Kerry full-forward has helped the Super League return to his home town with newly-formed club Tralee Warriors.

Local sides St Brendan's and Tralee Imperials cooperated to bring the top flight back after a seven-year absence in the Kerry basketball stronghold.

On the back of St Brendan's Intermediate Cup final victory in January, during which Donaghy scored 19 points, Basketball Ireland was convinced the league could return to the town. Tralee coach Mark Bernsen praises Donaghy particularly for uniting two teams under one banner.

"As a Tralee man, he has been an important part of the process in bringing both sides together and bringing back Super League," the American says. "He's has been the pied piper, he's playing his tune and people are following."

Donaghy's tune drew 1,000 spectators to Tralee's first home league game and they will hope to draw the same crowd against DCU Saints tomorrow.

PERFECT

While Bernsen says that everything off the court has been "perfect," performances have been less than ideal.

"It's a learning curve because right now we've only got one player that's played in the Super League before, and that's Kieran Donaghy," he says.

The 33-year-old's leadership has helped the side to three league wins in a row after an 97-77 opening defeat to UCC Demons and a disappointing early exit in the National Cup.

His passion for the sport began as a child when he would sleep with a basketball to become familiar with it on the advice of his coach. He described his connection to the sport in his recent autobiography 'What do you think of that?'

"I've never been the best (football) player, not at inter-county level. In basketball if I want the ball, I can demand it," he writes.

Bernsen is well aware of his ability having led Donaghy and his former footballing team-mate Micheál Quirke to a league win in 2008 with Tralee Tigers.

"People in the States keep asking me why I keep coming back, especially to Tralee. He (Donaghy) is one of the reasons," he says.

While he has Donaghy's book on his shelf it will remain there until the season's end, as he hopes instead that Donaghy can provide entertainment on the court.

Meanwhile, Aidan O'Shea followed Donaghy's example yesterday when the Mayo forward announced his return to basketball with EJ Sligo All-Stars and could play in Sunday's clash against the Dublin Lions.

Irish Independent

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