THE Covid pandemic has caused difficulty for sports across the globe, with Fr Mathew's basketball club no exception despite their ambitious expansion in recent seasons.
The Bishopstown-based basketball side had begun making significant strides over the course of last year in their new facility, the Fr Mathew's Arena. Unfortunately, club members have been spending a lot less time on their home floor than they would’ve liked, owing to the current circumstances.
However, Fr Mathew's have been doing just about all they can to keep everyone involved at the moment, utilising modern technology to keep coaches and players connected right throughout the hiatus.
The plans to keep players playing over the course of the lockdown has been largely spurred on by the newly appointed Head of Coaching at the club, Pat Price. The Pennsylvania native boasts a strong résumé, coaching at the top-level both here in Ireland and overseas.
Most recently, Price guided Garvey’s Tralee Warriors to a Super League win and a runner-up spot in back to back years, while also managing the Ireland U16 National Team at the FIBA U16 European Championships.
First and foremost, the club is keeping health and fitness a real priority, teaming up with local personal training centre, OneArena. The players have been kept motivated and improved fitness levels with regular sessions over Zoom, directed by full-time trainers from the gym.
As basketball players, the club recognises how it is vital to keep skills sharp, which is why they’ve put a big emphasis on their 'player development sessions'. On weekends, the club broadcasts its own zoom classes that are progressively challenging depending on the different age groups.
Each session has been coordinated by Coach Pat Price himself and has received a hugely positive response from both players and parents.
On the senior side of the club, similar struggles haven’t impacted momentum for the coming season. For coach Niamh Dwyer and the Women’s Super League team, the decision to postpone the league campaign came as a surprise.
“It has been really unfair to players and clubs given the amount of resources that need to be in place to start a season.”
After recognising that a halt in proceedings was always inevitable, Dwyer’s side of dedicated players flipped the situation into a positive one and have used the time to develop their match fitness and team bonding.
“The players are a pleasure to work with. They have shown a huge amount of commitment and consideration throughout the lockdown and I just hope they will be rewarded with some type of competition and that they will get the chance to play.”
In her first full year as head-coach, Dwyer has been relentless in making sure that her players stay ready for whenever they’re allowed to get back on the court.
For the National League Men, they’ve had to deal with as many setbacks as any other team.
Originally, the report of the incoming suspension was a frustrating one, with the side due to welcome Waterford IT Vikings to the Fr Mathews Arena just two days after the news broke.
When Level 5 restrictions followed shortly after, coach Darko Bucan feared the worst for two of his newest players.
The club were reluctantly forced to cut ties with both of their overseas recruits for the upcoming season, Jordan Jackson and Silvio Mateus.
Jackson, a centre from Washington, USA; and Mateus, a point-guard from Angola had to depart on short notice, leaving both the players and Bucan quite upset.
“Letting Jordan and Silvio go was frustrating on many levels, but most importantly you feel terrible for the two guys. They did everything right from the start, so it wasn’t easy to break the news to them. Also, coaches and teams spent a lot of time and energy recruiting, making sure they find players to fit well with their programs and make a difference on the court.”
Bucan alluded to a problem which many Irish basketball teams faced as a result of the lockdown.
“Clubs took a serious hit financially, bringing guys in, paying for flights, salaries, accommodation, and the players left without ever playing a competitive game. That’s a lot of energy and funds on everyone’s behalf spent without a return and it is definitely frustrating.”
Having said that, Bucan mentioned that his guys are availing of the club’s new services and are safely working out together also.
“We meet for an outdoor workout in Tramore Valley Park and guys have been doing extra work individually, but everyone just itches to come back to playing. If some form of play is to take place, I hope teams will be given enough time to prepare so we can all stay healthy and avoid injuries.”
With the fate of the national league regular seasons already decided, the rest of the club live in hope that basketball will be back sooner rather than later.