THERE have been many great volunteers behind the success of basketball in this country, and for Blue Demons stalwart and founding member Dan Byrne it was certainly a labour of love.
Dan like many of his friends was involved in Sunday’s Well with the local St Vincent’s church where he participated as an altar boy before joining the De Paul Boys club.
In his young days Dan, despite not being a star player, was involved with Blue Demons where he held key positions in the club as he reflected on the good old days.
“I think the amazing thing about the foundation of Demons is 60 years later many of us are still close friends and that’s something very close to my heart,” said Dan Byrne.
“I still play golf with Aidan Horgan and in regard to Noel McCarthy, Barry Joyce and many more like Jim Dineen we do have regular phone conversations.”
Although Dan stepped away from the executive committee, he is still very much part of the annual Golf Classic that is an important financial help to the club.
“For the last 25 years Aidan Horgan and the late Peter Coughlan have been the mainstay of the classic that I hope will return in 2022.”
Dan believes Blue Demons is a very successful brand in Irish basketball as he reflected on the introduction of Americans to the Irish game.
“As we know Paudie O’Connor had the vision to bring the first Americans in 1979 and that proved a vital surge in Irish basketball.
“The following year I was on a flight to Pittsburgh and in the midst of the journey I got speaking to the gentleman next to me who noticed I was reading a basketball magazine.
“He actually was pleasantly surprised when I told him basketball was played in Ireland and after telling him I was looking for two players to play with Blue Demons he invited me to a game as he was the sports director in Pittsburgh University.”
The rest is history as Dan signed Wayne Williams and David Beckom and, in another twist, Dan actually signed Pete Strickland for Neptune who were at that time competing in the second division.
“Wayne was a great player, but he made it clear that it would only be for one year and Dave Beckom was also a very athletic player who had an accident in the early stage of his Demons career but a good guy that is still living in Cork.”
For the elder lemons in Cork, who could forget the Major Extra Size International basketball tournament that was held at the Parochial Hall in Gurranabraher.
“We had teams from England, Scotland, Belgium and Norway and in the action from 1973 to 1975 the people of Cork and Ireland were treated to some spectacular basketball.
“In 1973 I chaired the first committee and to have late taoiseach Jack Lynch open the tournament was a huge honour and this project saw the type of people that were associated with our club in the work they did to ensure it went off without a hitch.”
After witnessing basketball for many years Dan believes Basketball Ireland ruined the game in this country when reducing the Americans from two to one in the late eighties.
It was all down to jealously from the Dublin clubs to Demons and Neptune as they hadn’t the drive and vision to fundraise that ultimately ensured you had good Americans.
“Blue Demons were first club to have a company logo on a jersey when Britvic came on board and to show how popular basketball was at that time the GAA, soccer and rugby followed and that shows how powerful and organised basketball was in this country.”
Dan is a former vice-president of Apple computers and is a very successful businessman but not forgetting your roots or friends is very important to him. On August 31 2018 Dan lost his lifelong friend Peter Coughlan and in his own words life hasn’t been the same for him.
“I remember sitting with Peter in the corner of the Rock Bar when Peter was first diagnosed with Leukemia and we both cried for a full hour.
“Peter knew how serious his condition was and all he was worried about was his family and that shows the type of man he really was.
“I was with him an hour before he died, and his final words were: ‘Dan I didn’t deserve this’.”
Blue Demons are presently not competing in the Super League and Dan believes there is a collective responsibility within the club for this decision.
We are all guilty as we took our eye off the ball and in reality we stopped producing players like Shane Coughlan, Kyle Hosford, Carleton Cuff and Niall Murphy.”
The future of Blue Demons is still positive, and Dan is determined they will get back competing at the top level of Irish basketball.
“We have some good people like Barry Deasy working hard at juvenile level and we returned once before when we had to withdraw from the league because sometimes you have to take a deep breath and recharge your batteries.”
When you look at the players like Noel McCarthy Mono McCarthy, Timmy McCarthy, John Cooney, Joe Coughlan, and Gerry Wheeler — Demons have always been a club associated with quality.
On the family side Dan married Ann in 1974 and they were blessed with three children Leigh-Ann, Colin and Colman and they are all healthy and happy.
In times when players of various sports hog the headlines, it’s the vision of people like Dan Byrne whose work behind the scenes made him an integral part of Blue Demons success story.