Tralee Warriors head coach John Dowling remains “hopeful” that Kieran Donaghy will stick with basketball after the Kerry side sealed their first National Cup title with an 88-75 win over Neptune.
The former Kerry footballer was part of his hometown’s last team, the Tigers, to triumph in this competition in 2007 and was key to Saturday’s success at the National Basketball Arena. The 38-year-old helped establish a lead that the Warriors would not relinquish when he came on half way through the first quarter to score six points.
Dowling praised Donaghy’s “enigmatic” affect on his team-mates, which came just a week after he lost a Munster SFC club final with Austin Stacks.
“He’s taught me so much. Me coaching him as a rookie coach? It doesn’t matter, he’ll give me the same respect,” Dowling said. “That’s testament to him and hopefully he’ll play another year because if basketball loses him they’re going to lose something very, very special.”
Dowling also lauded MVP Daniel Jokubaitis and Aaron Calixte, who both shot 19 points to lead Tralee to “what we have been dreaming of” since they first formed six years ago.
Donaghy too knows what this victory means having helped local clubs, St Brendan’s and Imperials, join forces to re-establish a Super League presence in the town in 2016.
“The next home game in Tralee is going to be off the charts. The restrictions are gone, the half capacity is gone. It’ll be a sardine job down there for the next home game. I can’t wait for that,” he said.
While Donaghy remains “delighted to have seen this through”, he now wants to turn his attention to promoting “basketball in general”.
“I would love if national TV would cover more of these games because this is what it leads to. More people seeing it, more people wanting to come,” Donaghy added. “You saw Neptune’s young (Cian) Heaphy dunked on top of a 6ft 10in Croatian tonight, our Eoin Quigley with the moves from the post and our national team is doing very well now.
“When I was leaving the Kerry dressing room in 2018, most of them knew more about the NBA than I did. But when I went in there first I was nearly shunned for liking basketball.
“So the game has got such popularity, we have to build on it.”
Neptune’s Nil Sabata shot 21 points to become the game’s top scorer but it was not enough for the Cork men.
The second half was a heated affair at times with Neptune captain Roy Downey and Donaghy having to be separated before umpires awarded fouls against both of them.
Ultimately it failed to halt the Warriors’ march to glory.
It was not all gloomy for Cork, as UCC Demons earlier claimed the Division 1 Cup title after an 83-64 win over Drogheda Wolves – a major boost for the club who pulled out of the Super League in 2019.