SIX Cork basketball teams are ready for the start of the national season on October 17.
These are extremely uncertain times for the sport on Leeside and beyond. Currently, per Level 3 restrictions, no underage or adult basketball team can play train indoors.
An opening round of fixtures did take place last weekend locally, but Covid concerns wiped out the rest of the October schedule.
Elite teams are currently ready for action, which covers Neptune and Ballincollig in the men's league, Glanmire and Brunell in the women's, and Fr Mathew's in both. There's also an U20 national league, which is already up and running.
CEO and secretary general of Basketball Ireland, Bernard O’Byrne explained they are working hard to get the show on the road.
“We’re delighted to release our National League fixtures for the upcoming season. There has been uncertainty surrounding all sport due to Covid-19 and we’ve been monitoring the situation closely to ensure we can get our season up and running in a safe manner. We’re looking forward to seeing our National League teams back competing on the court.”
Issues such as financing teams without supporters' contributions and access to shower and changing facilities are among the challenges on the horizon.
Next Saturday is an especially historic day for Tradehouse Central Ballincollig, as they take to the court for the first time in the SuperLeague. Three successful seasons in Division 1 saw them capture the President's Cup each time before an unbeaten campaign in 2019-'20 culminated in promotion.
They face a real test in their opener, hosting Kieran Donaghy and Garvey's Tralee Warriors but there's no doubt the sense of occasion will be diminished somewhat for Kieran O'Sullivan's side without the home fans to roar them on.
The Collig made some interesting off-season moves, including the recruitment of Demons' rising star David Lehane and Irish international Keelan Cairns, who moved south from Belfast Star.
CandSNeptune are away to Keane's SuperValu Killorglin, which means their new head coach Colin O'Reilly is going up against the side he was at the helm of last year. Neptune impressed for the first half of last season before fading away after losing the National Cup semi-final at home.
O'Reilly will be looking to get the best out of Roy Downey and Kyle Hosford, though Neptune's promising underage prospects such as Darragh O'Sullivan, Eli Linehan and Seán McCarthy all headed Stateside over the past 14 months. Brandon Neel has been recruited as their American.
The Address UCC Glanmire have Claire Rockall back on board, as well as gifted US baller Shrita Parker and newcomer Anna Hayton. Expect Mark Scannell's squad to be strong contenders.
Aryn McClure returns to Singleton SuperValu Brunell, who will be in the South Conference, which features the three Cork clubs, Hawks from Kilkenny, Waterford Wildcats and St Mary's from Kerry.
4pm: Tradehouse Central Ballincollig v Garvey’s Tralee Warriors; Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin v CandS Neptune, 7.15pm.
The Address UCC Glanmire v Marble City Hawks, 2.30pm; Fr Mathews v Team Garvey’s St Mary’s, 5pm; Waterford Wildcats v Singleton SuperValu Brunell, 6pm.
Fr Mathews v WIT Waterford, 7.45pm.