CORK’S Stewart Joyce has been named ‘referee of the year’ by Basketball Ireland.
It was a fitting tribute to veteran Joyce for his dedication to the sport, as a player and administrator and, later, as a referee. He was surprised to receive the honour.
“When I got the news, I was speechless, and even my wife, Margaret, was surprised, as, normally, you can’t get a word in edge ways with me."
When he was younger, he played for Ireland and won multiple trophies with Neptune and GH74.
“I first started playing basketball at the age of 10, in 1972, when Noel Allen came to Cathedral Boys’ National School to ask for kids to join Neptune basketball club.
“I played with a lot of good players, but the player who always made me look good was the legendary Paul ‘Spider’ Keohane, who keeps reminding me about all the trophies he won for me,” Joyce said.
“We won minor leagues in 1976, ’77, ’78, and also won many underage trophies. I also had the honour of being the captain of the Irish U15 team in 1977.
“When I was 16, I was selected for Neptune National League team, who were in Division 2 in 1978, at that time.” He left Neptune the following year to join another local club, GH74, and after joining the Cork Referees the previous year, he started to take refereeing more seriously.
“I finished my playing career with Neptune in 1979, because we had no coach. I did not want to stop playing, so I joined GH74 Basketball Club, who were based in the Gurranabraher area.
“I made friends for life with a great bunch of lads. However, I knew my love for playing was gone. Around that time, I took refereeing basketball seriously and I never looked back,” Joyce said.
“I started referring basketball in 1977, with my lifelong friend, Frank O’Callaghan, and we are both still enjoying it today.
“I got to referee my first National League in 1980, between Glenagle Killarney and Team Britvic (Blue Demons), and went on to referee in the men’s and women’s Division 1 National League games for a number of years.
“I was treasurer of the Cork Juvenile Board in the early ’80s, also, when the game was booming in Cork.
“I was an officer for eight years under chairman, John Coughlan, and president, Denis Daly.
“I also served for a number of years alongside Noel Allen, Murty Nagle, Micheal Murphy, Tony O’Connell, and Liam O’Riordan,” Joyce said.
“This board started the Billy Kelly U17 Tournament, in 1980, and this Easter would have been the 40th anniversary of the tournament. This is the biggest underage tournament in the country. However, the tournament had to be cancelled this year, due to Covid-19.
“My high point of my refereeing career would be winning ‘referee of the year’ in 1982, which was picked by the basketball clubs, and I won it again in 2009, from the Cork Referees’ Association.
“There were two low points in my career, as I never got to referee a National Cup final, even though I have refereed numerous international games.
“Another big disappointment was that I never received my international cap when I played for Ireland and I wish it was done back in those days; then I would have something to show my family.”
He is married to Margaret, and they have a daughter, Sarah, and a son, Stephen.
“My wife, Margaret, is a saint for putting up with me. However, I would be lost without her, as she always gave me the support in everything I have done.
“My daughter, Sarah, is now an early-years teacher, and my son, Stephen, is a Navy medic, and plays basketball with the Cork Celts basketball club.
“I’m so lucky to have two wonderful kids, as they’re doing jobs they love and are very passionate about.
“I also have three sisters — Majella (Corbett), Jacqueline (Rabenstein), and Sylvia (Healy) — and I love my family beyond words.
“I also recently became a grand-uncle, to Myles McDonald, which is something I was thrilled about.”
He took a break from basketball and formed the Crescent Athletic Football Club with friends. He also refereed soccer at that time.
“In 1982, I became a founder member of Crescent Athletic Football Club, with my friend, Neilus Dineen. The team was formed in Gurranabraher Avenue. We joined the Cork AUL, as there was a lot of unemployment in the area that time.
“That team won all AUL leagues in a five-year period between 1988 and 1993 and runners-up in the blue ribband competition, the AOH Cup, in 1992. They were a great bunch of lads, who are now brothers for life.
“I always wanted to try soccer refereeing, but I had to leave Crescent to do so, which was one of the hardest things I ever had to do. I knew that if I left it too late, I would look back and regret not trying it.
“So I took the step in 1996 and continued to approximately 2006, which was a very enjoyable experience.
“There were some great people that helped me along the way, the likes of Gene Stephens, Eddie Mullins, Alan Kelly, and Billy Falvey.
“I will always be thankful for the time they gave me, and, looking back now, I’m delighted to have done it.”
Joyce returned to basketball refereeing and is also juvenile liaison officer with the Cork Men’s Board
“Even though I still love refereeing basketball, I know my career is coming to a end, so when asked would I join the Cork Men’s Basketball Board, I jumped at the opportunity.
“I am currently the juvenile liaison officer. This is a position that I take very seriously. It’s a job I love.
“Two people I would like to acknowledge are Billy Coffey, chairman of the board, and John Houlihan, whose commitment to CCBOA is legendary."