THEY may be gone from our thoughts and minds a long time now, but, despite its brief period as one of the most successful underage basketball clubs in the country, Iona Basketball Club has left a lasting legacy in the sport.
Founded in 1956 in the heart of the Northside of Cork, they played and trained in Blarney Street School, and went on to be one of the most successful underage clubs in the country, winning 13 Minor All-Ireland titles in the 1960s and '70s.
Several Cork basketball legends such as Seanie Murphy, John Cooney, Tim McCarthy and Pat Quirke all started their playing careers with the Iona Club. Seanie Murphy joined Iona in 1964 where he played and coached until he joined Blue Demons.
Seanie, then went on to win major honors with the Sunday’s Well club as a player, and coach.
He also went on to represent Ireland as a player and senior coach.
“One of my early memories of Iona is that all our gear was sent as a gift to us from Iona University in New Rochelle New York,” Murphy said.
“We as kids would be so excited arriving at the Parochial Hall with our new gear and basketball shoes, however, there would be only five or six pairs of rubber dollies (basketball shoes) so we had to swap them around during substitutions,” Seanie says with a smile.
“Another great memory is when I was selected on the Munster U16 team for the Inter-provincial Tournament in 1961.
“We had some great players with the likes of Noel McCarthy and Donal Buckley from DePaul on that team.
“The year I left Iona to play with Blue Demons Senior team, I also became coach to DePaul Minor team. We ended up playing Iona in the final of the Championship in which DePaul won, however, naturally I had very mixed feelings after that game as it was the first time Iona were beaten at Minor level for many years.”
Another superb player to come out of the Iona club was Tim McCarthy.
Tim joined the club as a young eight-year-old boy. He played there for four years before he joined GH74, and then went on to play with Blue Demons. He also went on to represent the Irish Senior International team winning 105 caps, 54 of them as captain.
“Iona will always have a special place in my heart,” Tim says. “I remember as a 12-year-old playing in the U14 All-Ireland in Mallow.
“I started alongside Denis Daly, Hughie Millar, Paul Prendergast and Mickey O’Callaghan, and we went on to beat Portarlington in the final.
“We arrived back in Blarney Street where bonfires and our proud families were there to meet us.”
Pat Quirke was probably one of the finest point guards that has played in this country.
Neptune coach Noel Allen once described him as the magician, as he could do it all, shoot with both hands, rebound, always made the right pass, and had an incredible IQ for the game.
Pat started playing with Iona, and went on to play four different National League teams winning multiple trophies.
“I Joined Iona as a 12-year-old boy, and left 26 years old to play with Killarney 1981,” Pat said.
“I also played National League with Blue Demons and Neptune were I won two leagues, one National Cup, on Roy Curtis tournament, and a Cork Championship in 1977.
”I played with some great players back then with Iona, Dommie Dalton, John Cooney, Jimmy Barry, Jim Crowley, and Denis Daly.
“We won every underage trophy, however, sadly it didn’t carry on to senior level. One of my favorite memories from my Iona days was the U14 All-Ireland.
“We were well beaten by Killester in our the pool game. We then played St Gall’s who had Brendan Rush, who was 6-6 tall.
“Our tallest player was Bill Creagh, and he did an excellent job on the boards for us. With 20 seconds remaining in the game we had three of our first five sitting on the bench with five fouls, then seconds to go Eddie Darrington ended up on the top of the key with the ball, and he threw up a set shot that hit nothing but net.
“Game over. We then went on to beat Killester by about 15 points in the final.
“ Another great memory was our minor team playing the Handicap Blitz at the Parochial Hall. We played against our senior team in the semi-final, however, as we were a minor team we got a 12-point start, and ended up winning the game by 10 points.
“We played Blue Demons in the final who we also won by 12 points. There is something special about winning such a trophy with the lads you grew up with. It’s such a great feeling. I remember Jim Crowley matching up against Demons' Noel McCarthy, who I consider to be one of the best players ever to come out of Cork.
“Jim was not a tall player, but he had a wide body, and knew how to use it. I am proud to say Jim held his own and we held on to win.
“Of all the players that I played with in Iona, Jim Crowley was my favorite.
“I also had the honor of playing with the Cork Senior team against Kerry in Castleisland, while I was still a Minor player with Iona and got to play with Noel McCarthy, Seanie Murphy, Andrew Houihan which was such a thrill for me back then,” Pat added.