LESS than two weeks ago, Irish basketball stopped on instruction from Sport Ireland.
The deferral of the season was in compliance with the Government’s ‘Plan for Living with Covid-19’ scheme.
The Sport Expert Group decreed that no senior national competition should take place in Level 3 or higher, deeming that all senior Irish basketball matches be suspended indefinitely.
The news couldn’t have come at a worse time for the basketball faithful, especially for the newly-appointed Fr Mathew’s Women’s Superleague head coach, Niamh Dwyer.
The Monmouth College alum was busy putting together the final pieces of her training plan for that evening’s session when the news of the hiatus broke.
“My first reaction was shock, to be honest, considering it was just two days to tip-off,” Dwyer says.
“In the back of my head, I guess everyone knew a delay was possible, but I think being so close and having elite status, I thought the season would have at least started.”
The squad were due to tip-off their season by hosting Team Garvey’s St Mary’s of Castleisland in the first game of a club double-header that Saturday evening, in the Fr Mathew’s Arena.
On the back of such a positive preseason, there was a palpable anticipation among the players and coaching staff alike to take the floor after six months without competition.
Dwyer had referred to how preparations were slightly alternative, yet just as effective, in the lead-up to the season.
She said, “It may not have been the traditional pre-season, but we are very lucky at Fr Mathew’s to have our own hall and we have certainly taken advantage of other resources, like Zoom.”
Dwyer went on to say that, “The players have conducted online fitness sessions led by our forward, Shannon Brady, and we have also done video analysis to help the players in understanding a new system.”
So far, it’s been an unorthodox build-up towards the opening tip-off, but Dwyer has been relishing the opportunity in her first full campaign at the helm.
When asked about how she’s been coping with this unpredictable pre-season, Dwyer said: “So far, it’s been good, but it’s only pre-season. I’m really enjoying coaching this team and I’m just constantly looking for different ways to bring the best out of players.”
With an undoubtedly turbulent year on the horizon, the former Irish international said that she’s “set out with the goal in mind of developing a programme and not just a team”.
Dwyer furthered her point by acknowledging that “these goals are particularly important during the pandemic, as you don’t know which players will be available from one game to the next”.