'The Duke' on basketball president's lifetime achievement award

Castleisland community news

Where it all began: Donal The Duke O'Connor sitting on the old window ledge at the back of the former St. Marys Parish Hall on Castleislands Church Street. Photo by: John Reidy
Where it all began: Donal The Duke O'Connor sitting on the old window ledge at the back of the former St. Marys Parish Hall on Castleislands Church Street. Photo by: John Reidy

John Reidy

Recognition for 'fantastic work' in the field of basketball in Ireland has been given a brand-new badge of honour under the heading of Basketball Ireland President's Lifetime Achievement Awards.

And guess what! Castleisland man Donal 'Duke' O'Connor is among the 2019 and first recipients of the awards.

This is the inaugural year of the awards, and it will see all recipients honoured at the 2019 Basketball Ireland annual awards ceremony at Croke Park on May 11.

The awards are in recognition of the fantastic work being done by members of the basketball community around Ireland, and the nominating committee had an extremely tough task in selecting this year's winners.

The names revealed were: Andrew Drumm, Donal 'Duke' O'Connor, Joe Byrne (RIP) and Joey Boylan.

The Basketball Ireland citation for Donal 'Duke' O'Connor reads as follows.

"Ask anyone in the basketball community to think of Christmas, and only one thing springs to mind - the St Mary's Castleisland blitz.

"In 1970, Donal O'Connor approached a group of friends with the idea of a basketball blitz to brighten up the days after the Christmas holiday.

"He went on to convince the owner of the local dance hall to allow them to put in basketball rings by day, and that first year, the event was a roaring success - with games over two days, with 12 teams, 18 games, 10 hours of basketball and 350 people in attendance.

"In 1976, the blitz moved to the newly built Community Centre.

"By 1988, the blitz had become so big that a second venue was added. Now, in the present day, the blitz runs in two venues over five days, with the 2018 blitz seeing 164 games, 22 competitions, 93 hours of basketball and a record-breaking 13,000 people in attendance.

"2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the blitz and Donal O'Connor is still at the helm, driving the event forward."

Kerryman

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