Friday 6 December 2019

Age no barrier as Killester star Turner eyes Cup glory

Jermaine Turner. Photo: Sportsfile
Jermaine Turner. Photo: Sportsfile

Tom Rooney

Jermaine Turner has spent most of the last two decades plying his trade across the length and breadth of Ireland, but the years have not diluted that unmistakable New York lilt one bit.

Widely considered to be one of the greatest basketballers - if not the greatest - to play on Irish soil, the Queens-born Pyrobel Killester forward arrived on these shores as an undrafted collegian back in 2000.

Aside from brief stints in Europe, he has called Ireland home ever since. He holds an Irish passport and lives in Dublin with his Irish wife and children.

A sprightly 42, Father Time is yet to catch up with him and tonight, at the National Basketball Arena, Turner will hope to spearhead a Killester win over Griffith Swords Thunder in the Hula Hoops National Cup final.

Having won the competition with Killester in 2010, Turner is determined to upset the odds against the heavily favoured Thunder. The pain of a semi-final defeat last year to eventual winners Templeogue has also served as a powerful motivator.

"It would mean the world," Turner said. "Last year in the locker room at the Mardyke (after the loss to Templeogue) I was in an emotional state because I felt I let the team down.

"We vowed from that moment that we wanted to get back and now, almost a year to the day, we're only 40 minutes away."

He's certainly done his part thus far: in the 81-69 semi-final defeat of UCD Marrion, a knee injury couldn't stop Turner racking up 15 points and 28 rebounds.

"When you get to my age you don't get many chances to play at this stage," he said.

"I remember watching my first cup, and it was Ballina versus Killester, and the whole atmosphere seemed like an NCAA tournament and I thought 'I have to be a part of that'."

Irish basketball is yet to recapture the heady days of the 1980s and, for Turner, the game has regressed in his time here due to the limitation on foreign players. However, he says the reintroduction of the national team last year should drive standards again.

He believes that the return of Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy, who plays for the Tralee Warriors, is a timely boost for the game's profile.

Described by his younger team-mates as the "50-year-old virgin," Turner is more than happy to take their barbs, provided there's more silverware come the final whistle tonight.

"We did it in 2010, and we've been trying to fight back since then and we're finally here. This what we play for," he said.

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