Fultons play generation game in Star's quest for Cup glory
Belfast Star aim to shine at tomorrow's National Cup semi-finals in Cork with the guidance of three generations of the Fulton family.
Head coach Adrian Fulton, who last claimed club silverware winning the Super League 20 years ago, has steered his team to the brink of success once more.
His 16-year-old son CJ, however, has grabbed the headlines since hitting 15 three-pointers in a 47-point tally for St Malachy's in the All-Ireland schools U-16 'A' final last year.
He then continued to progress with Star after getting the opportunity to impress when injury ruled out twins Conor and Aidan Quinn this season.
"I was playing national league a little bit younger than him but we weren't at the Super League at that stage. I started in the old Division 3 and had to earn my way up," says Fulton Snr.
"In any sport that's a big jump (from underage to senior) but with him it was more opportunity. He went from a kid doing one night a week with the Super League team to ending up starting."
CJ and Adrian, who is assisted by his fellow 1998-'99 league champion Javan Dupree, also benefit from the sideline advice of another former player. Namely dad and grandad Danny Fulton.
"He will be there on the bench with me. He will be barking out orders at me and giving out to his grandson. He loves it. He really does," says Adrian, who is a PE teacher at Belfast's St Malachy's College.
"He loves these type of weekends and seeing basketball friends over the last 60 years. There will be an element of that there but don't let that distract you from the fact that he loves to win."
The northerners, who are one of three teams three points behind league leaders Templeogue, face last year's league champions UCD Marian in their 4pm semi-final at the Mardyke Arena.
Fulton knows that the Dubliners, led by Greek coach Ioannis Liapakis, are still smarting from last year's narrow Cup final defeat.
"They're a very talented squad, they pretty much have the same squad as they had last year. They're very experienced. They've been in the trenches so to speak," Adrian assesses.
The winners of that game will play either Kieran Donaghy's Tralee Warriors or Killester, whose semi-final is at 8pm tomorrow, in the final.
To get there would move Star closer to silverware which has evaded the club since Fulton played 20 years ago.
"If we could get our hands on any of the three - National Cup, National Trophy or the League - we'd be absolutely thrilled. Anybody who wins anything this year is really going to have earned it. It would be a terrific but we don't want to be a one-season wonder," he insists.
In the Women's Cup, meanwhile, Brunell play Fr Mathews in an all-Cork semi-final tonight at Neptune Stadium at 8.30pm. DCU Mercy face Liffey Celtics in tomorrow's semi-final (6pm) in the Mardyke Arena.