Tralee Tigers ready to roar into action

If talk of the Celtic Tiger being on the wane is slightly misleading, then any murmurings of the Tralee Tigers nearing extinction as a basketball force is greatly exaggerated.Following on from their Superleague title success three seasons ago, and their National Cup triumph the following year, the 2004/05 season didnt exactly see the Tralee club roar to further succe

Ahead of this weekend’s start to the new Superleague basketball season Paul Brennan spoke to new Abrakebabra Tigers, Tralee coach Dave Falvey

If talk of the Celtic Tiger being on the wane is slightly misleading, then any murmurings of the Tralee Tigers nearing extinction as a basketball force is greatly exaggerated.

Following on from their Superleague title success three seasons ago, and their National Cup triumph the following year, the 2004/05 season didn’t exactly see the Tralee club roar to further success as those couple of heady campaigns had suggested they would.

Following the departure of American coach Rus Bradburd after that Superleague winning season, the Cup was achieved with American player/coach Chris Craig in charge, but the ‘foreign’ experiment began to take a nose-dive last season, with Australian Luke O’Hea failing to take his on-court skills through to the coaching manual as player/coach.

By the lofty standards the Tigers had set for themselves, last year’s Superleague and National Cup campaigns were deemed a failure by a club that has always demanded high achievements of itself and lately has started to deliver on those ambitions.

Therefore, in order to regain what the club feels is their rightful place at the top table, this year Tralee have gone back to basics with the appointment of local man Dave Falvey as head coach. For those in the know, Falvey’s is a familiar name on the basketball circuit, having coached the club in various different guises, heading up the senior team between 1997 and 2001, before taking a back seat from basketball due to work and family commitments.

Now Falvey is back in charge of a Tigers team he feels has the perfect balance, the right blend of players and the hunger to get back into the big time.

“I always had a big involvement with basketball in Tralee and coached lots at juvenile level as well as the Tigers team back in the late 90s. A few years ago I stood back from it all because I was setting up a new business, getting married and starting a family, and I felt I just needed a break from the game,” Falvey says.

“I hadn’t really thought much about getting back to this level, not yet anyway, but I was keen to get involved again, and when the club came and asked me was I interested, I knew straight away that I was.”

Off season in Superleague basketball is a strange time. Last season’s American and ‘Bosman’ players are gone, local players are usually involved in football or soccer, and the new basketball season seems to sneak up almost unnoticed. However, Falvey knew that if was to be involved then he wanted to have a big say in what new players were drafted in, and he is satisfied that his ‘wish list’ has been fulfilled.

“I think I have had more of an impact this time (compared to that last time I was in charge), I’ve picked the players I wanted,” he says.

Those new signings include Americans Dave Fanning, Wilder Auguste and James Mooney, with Falvey admitting that he is more than pleased with his new imports. Twenty-six year old Fanning, at 6’1”, has plenty of experience playing in Europe, while Wilder Auguste from Texas, standing at 6’7”, is hoped to give Tralee that edge under the boards. New Yorker James Mooney qualifies as an incoming Bosman player through his Clare born father, while the familiar face of Roscoe Patterson will again play a key role in Falvey’s plans.

Falvey admits that he hasn’t had the ideal pre-season build-up.

“Honestly, I’d say we are at about 60% in terms of fitness and planning, but what we have done has been of good quality. Once we get our imports settled in we can get down to the real business,” the coach says enthusiastically.

Of course, while Falvey – and the supporters – will be excited at the prospect of seeing new American talent on show, the real draw for the Tigers this year will surely come from closer to home.

Kieran Donaghy has alwasy been a larger than life character on the courts, but with his profile raised to massive proportions following his achievements with the kerry football team, Falvey is hoping that some more of Donaghy’s ‘star’ qualities can transfer to the hardcourts.

“Kieran has given us a commitment to play for Tralee as much as he can and that is fantastic. Obviously football is the bigger part of his life now, and he needs to give his time to that, but he has committed to the Tigers fully until Christmas, at least,” Falvey says. “Obviously, into the new year he will have to get back into the football, but whatever we get from Kieran will be a huge bonus.

Micheal Quirke is another dual star, but his football commitments have lessened this year and Falvey is expecting a big season from the 6’5” Kerins O’Rahillys footballer, as well as veteran John Teehan, who is one of the most experienced players in the entire Superleague. “I think we have got the perfect balance from one through to five and our bench is very strong too,” he says.

Falvey admits that the current Superleague format don’t inspire him, as he feels the splitting of the competition into two Conferences dilutes the national feel of the league. Still, that won’t stop Falvey from going all out to win the League in his first year back in charge, although there is also the small matter of the National Cup first round draw against Killarney rivals, Mustang Sallys St Pauls (formerly the Lakers) to keep the new coach focussed.

“The National Cup draw between ourselves and Killarney is probably the biggest basketball game in Kerry for the last tem years. The two Kerry clubs head to head in the first round of the Cup has to be a big draw for anyone, but with the back door system we both have a second chance and there is a big possibility that we might meet each other again in the final,” he suggests.