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St Marys refute claims from coach Culloty after club withdraws from Women’s Super League

Castleisland club committee hit back at alleged ‘inaccuracies’ by women’s senior coach regarding team’s withdrawal from Super League


St Mary's coach Liam Culloty gives a time out team talk during the Women's Division One National Cup semi-final against Portlaoise Panthers at Parochial Hall in Cork in January 2020. Photo by Sportsfile

St Mary's coach Liam Culloty gives a time out team talk during the Women's Division One National Cup semi-final against Portlaoise Panthers at Parochial Hall in Cork in January 2020. Photo by Sportsfile

St Mary's coach Liam Culloty gives a time out team talk during the Women's Division One National Cup semi-final against Portlaoise Panthers at Parochial Hall in Cork in January 2020. Photo by Sportsfile


The St. Mary’s Basketball Club committee has responded strongly to a statement made by their senior women’s team coach Liam Culloty – with the backing of his players – refuting claims made by him regarding the withdrawal of the team from the Super League for the foreseeable suture.

The Castleisland based club came to the decision to withdraw from the Women’s Super League the weekend before last and had communicated that decision to Basketball Ireland and then to the local media.

Then late last Tuesday (June 14) Liam Culloty put out a statement via Twitter saying he was disappointed that the decision was made without consultation with him or the players, and also that the decision to withdraw was communicated to the players and management via text message. He also said that there were enough players committed to the team for next season, which contradicted the main reason the club had given for withdrawing, which it said was a lack of senior players to make up the team.

Now, through a second statement, the St. Mary’s committee have strongly refuted what they call “inaccuracies” in Culloty’s statement, while also giving more detail on the decision to withdraw from the Super League.

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St Marys club statement issued on June 11:

‘St. Mary’s Basketball have made the difficult decision to not to compete in the Women’s Super League next season. While we realise that this is disappointing news for Kerry basketball, we did not have the numbers required to make up a team. The club plans to rebuild over the next few years and will hopefully compete at national level again in the near future. We wish to thank our sponsor Garvey’s Supervalu, our dedicated players, the coaching staff and our wonderful supporters.’

Team coach Liam Culloty’s statement from June 14:

‘As a group of players and management we would like to express our shock and disappointment by the decision of the financial committee of our club to withdraw our team from the Women’s Superleague for the upcoming season.

‘Over the past five years we have travelled all over the country competing at Division 1 level, and when the opportunity arose to gain promotion to the Superleague last season we were delighted to accept it and play basketball at the highest level in this country. We were the first Kerry team to play in the Women’s Superleague in 16 years.

‘We felt as a group we needed to make this statement for two reasons. Firstly, the message that was released in the media over the weekend was that we did not have enough players to make up a team. Currently we have eight Irish players from around the county fully committed to playing Superleague and we had hoped with the addition of one or two professionals players along with some of the fantastic underage talent emerging in the county that we would have a squad more than capable of competing. Alas, we were never given this opportunity to recruit further players to the squad.

‘Secondly, and most disappointingly, the message that the club were withdrawing from Superlague was delivered to both players and management via text message, with no effort made to meet the players and management informing them of the decision before it was released to the media on Saturday. The very least we felt we deserved was the opportunity to fight our corner and see could a solution be found to allow the team to stay in the league.

‘We certainly experienced a lot of ups and downs in the season last year. We competed for 70% of the season without any professional player. The establishment of a Superleague team in Kerry has fulfilled a dream and created a pathway for ladies basketball players in Kerry to aspire to. The presence of so many young players from around the county at our home games after the lifting of the Covid 19 restrictions is testament to the impact the team has made. We deeply regret that we will not have the opportunity to grow the game among the basketball fraternity in Kerry in the coming season.’

St Marys club statement issued on June 21:

‘Unfortunately, we have had to respond to a statement released via Twitter, by Liam Culloty, the coach of our Super League ladies’ team, due to the inaccuracies it portrayed.

‘St. Mary’s basketball club is very supportive of our women’s teams, including our Super League ladies’ team and what they have achieved over the years. The club fully supported the team during the division one term and in the promotion to Super League. St. Mary’s were proud to be back playing at the top level. Players were, as they have always been by the club, looked after financially for any out-of-pocket expenses related to their travel to games.

‘Contrary to what is being portrayed by the statement on Twitter, St. Mary’s is a local club and not a county set up i.e. not a Kerry team. It would appear from reading the statement that the coach had an ambition for this to be a Kerry set up, yet this was something that was never brought up for discussion with St. Mary’s club who were financing the team.

‘St. Mary’s ambition is to provide an outlet for its girls and boys of all ages to play basketball and where possible, to play at the highest level. In recent years we have had a limited number of players come through from under age level. The decision to opt out of Super League was not taken without considerable consideration. The team coach was aware that the club were under pressure to give the Women’s Board an answer prior to a meeting on 13/06/22.

‘We are a club team, our first loyalties are to our club and club members, while we are, and always have been in the past, happy to welcome link players in, at no time during recent discussions had any individual player from any part of the county expressed to the club an interest to link or indeed transfer for next season. Conversations had been had with the coach regarding player numbers, the opportunity to recruit has been there since the end of the 21/22 season.

‘A phone call to the coach to inform him of the decision that had been made not to continue in Super League was placed on Friday 10/06/22. The call went unanswered and was not returned, due to the approaching Basketball Ireland deadline a text message was then sent. However, prior to this, the coach had been aware and involved in discussions and several club meetings were held around the issue.

‘The club does regret that players were made aware of the decision by text message. The message thanked players for their dedication over the years and apologised that players were not being met in person. A committee member also phoned all players the following day.

‘Team members have since been contacted again, apologised to for being told by text and have been given the opportunity to meet face to face if they wish.

‘The players and coach were informed of the decision to withdraw 30.5 hours prior to the press release being sent to the media and 24 hours prior to the decision being relayed to the women’s board of Basketball Ireland. During this time, no one made contact with the club to request that the decision be reconsidered.

‘Discussions were had with the coach around player numbers and on Wednesday, June 1st, at a meeting in Castleisland Community Centre, the coach informed the chair and vice chair of St. Mary’s that just six players were available. When asked if the club should contact the players, they were told “No, there is no need” by Mr Culloty. No others were signed up or agreed on but the possibility of links was mentioned.

‘Club members had been approached (senior, u20 & u18) and had informed the club that they were not interested in playing at this time. At this meeting the coach also informed the club chairperson that unless two professional players were engaged he would not be interested in coaching for the 22/23 season. The chairman informed the coach that it was unlikely that the club would agree to this due to the huge cost involved but that he would bring it to a meeting.

‘The estimated cost for bringing in two professional players, taking into consideration flights, wages, meals and accommodation would be in the region of €25,000. At a financial meeting on 09/06/22, a decision was made that the club could not incur this cost. The cost, the uncertainty of having a coach and the lack of players resulted in the decision to opt out of the league.

‘The Twitter comment “one or two professionals” is misleading. No other interested players had come forward or been made know to the club. A basketball team is made up of 12 players, several more would normally be licenced for the year to cover during times of injury or absenteeism of players.

‘We have a huge number of teams in our club and must behave in a responsible manner with all finances to ensure the continuity of St. Mary’s Basketball Club Castleisland. Last season St. Mary’s had 13 female and 12 male teams.

‘St. Mary’s played at the highest level in Ireland in the early ‘90s both with women’s and men’s teams. We returned in the early 2000s with both and enjoyed great success. Our men’s team continued up to 2014. Our women had opted out but returned once again and won the league in 2012. After another short break, they returned and won the All-Ireland club in 2016. A return to division one followed, the ladies were league runners up in 2019/20 before being invited into the Super League.

‘This club is ambitious, we aim for the highest level but when it is not possible to compete, we take a break to regroup and build for our return.’