Cork basketball: Dommie Mullins is 50 years coaching the sport he loves

Cork basketball: Dommie Mullins is 50 years coaching the sport he loves

The Blarney Ladies Basketball team that won the ICS Building Society National Cup in 1987. Back: William Stokes, coach Dommie Mullins, captain Miriam Forde, Annette Forde, Mary Sullivan, Beryl Piper, club chairman Jim O'Keeffe; front, Mary McGuire, Jess Hurley, Maeve O'Brien, Caroline Forde, Tracey Nagle, Sandy Fitzgibbon and Elaine Hurley. 

SPORT in 2020 has been dominated by Covid-19 and its restrictions.

The virus has decimated all sports, however, for one man, 2020 has seen him reach a special milestone in his sport of basketball.

That man is the legendary coach Dommie Mullins. He is 50 years coaching the game he loves this year. Over this timeframe, he has become one of the greatest basketball coaches of all time in Ireland.

Northside native Mullins grew up at Barrett’s Terrace, just off Blarney St, with his father Tom (RIP), mother Joan (RIP), brothers John (RIP), Eddie (RIP), Thomas, and sisters Bernie, Margaret, Veronica, Helen, and Mary.

Dommie was drawn to basketball at the tender age of six with Iona, where he has fond memories of playing.

It is also where he commenced his coaching career at 16 years of age, with the Iona Babes team.

“I started off playing basketball with Iona when I followed my brothers Eddie and Thomas down to the outside court at Blarney St. I played for a few years, winning a couple of trophies, however, the coaching side of the game was more appealing to me, even at a young age.

“I transferred to Blue Demons at the age of 17 and I played minor and senior basketball with them.

“When I was with Demons I knew I had a big decision to make, whether I continue to play or take coaching more seriously. I was offered a chance to coach the Demons’ senior ladies team, which I accepted, and the rest is history.

“This was a new challenge for me as I never coached women before, but I adapted to it quickly, and we went on to win many Cork Leagues, championships, and a junior All-Ireland title.”

Dommie’s most successful spell in his coaching career started in 1983 when he joined Blarney Basketball Club. In a 10-year period, he guided Blarney to 10 national titles, and made history, winning 10 Cork Senior Leagues in a row.

Coach Dommie Mullins with the Blarney Ladies Basketball team in 1984.
Coach Dommie Mullins with the Blarney Ladies Basketball team in 1984.

Two people who helped him in those successful years were his assistant coach Aaron O’Connell and his team manager (and minder) William ‘Butch’ Stokes.

“I was approached by the Murphy sisters, Ann and Bernie, would I be interested in taking over Blarney, who were just relegated from the ladies’ Division 1 to Division 2 at the time,” he said. “Again, I was heading into the unknown, but the girls were brilliant.

“We won promotion back to Division 1 in my first year.

“It’s crazy — I was only thinking about the Blarney days last week when it was announced that basketball training could only take place outdoors. We trained outdoors twice a week at the Blarney Secondary School, and I remember the players clearing the snow off the court so that we could work on a few things before the 1987 National Cup semi-final against Meteors from Dublin.

“We went on to win the cup that year, which was our first major trophy, beating Team Satzenbrau from Belfast.

“The following few years were amazing, as we won three National Leagues in a row, from 1989 to 1991, coupled with four National Top Four Championships, and added two more National Cups in what was a glorious spell with the club.

“We had some superb players playing at the time, with the likes of the Forde sisters Miriam (RIP), Caroline, and Annette (RIP), Sandie Fitzgibbon, Sinead Daly, Mary Maguire, just to name a few.”

After a very successful spell with Blarney, Dommie had two stints with Brunell, winning a Division 2 league title in 1994, and most recently coaching their U16 team to league honours last year.

He spent 18 years as head coach with Donoughmore, but he also returned to Blue Demons to coach their SuperLeague team and spent another year coaching Killarney. Dommie also spent the best part of 20 years involved with the Irish national teams with his close friend, John O’Connor.

“After having a wonderful 10 years at Blarney, I joined Donoughmore as head coach,” he said. “I spent 18 years with the North Cork club, and I have great memories working with some wonderful players.

“I returned to Demons to coach their SuperLeague team for a session, and I also coached Killarney at Super League. I spent almost 20 years coaching different Irish programmes with my friend John O’Connor, and we had some very successful teams, winning back-to-back U17 Four Countries Ladies’ titles, winning the U18 Boys’ Four Countries, and was the first-ever Irish Junior Men’s team to qualify for the European Championships.”

One of Dommie’s great loves is coaching the St Vincent’s secondary and primary school teams. He joined the secondary school in 1993 and is there to this day.

Dommie Mullins, with the St Vincent’s Secondary Schhol Basketball team after winning another schools All-Ireland title.
Dommie Mullins, with the St Vincent’s Secondary Schhol Basketball team after winning another schools All-Ireland title.

Mullins is a great tactician, but his greatest strength is that he is a great teacher of the game, not only improving his players but making them better people.

“I joined St Vincent’s 27 years ago, and they’re like my second family. I have coached some wonderful players and some special people at Vincent’s. Even though we had some great success over the years, winning multiple trophies, however, the important thing for me is most of the girls still keep in contact with me, which is incredible."

Mullins is still very open to new ideas to pass on to his players and still attends as many courses as possible every year. He has no intention of giving up what he loves, which is coaching and developing young people into well-rounded adults who can play basketball.

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