NORTHSIDE native Derek Hegarty, who is currently IWA player of the year, will line out with the Rebel Wheelers on Friday night when they defend their Hula Hoops IWA National Cup against Killester WBC at the National Basketball Arena.
It's set to be a very close final. When both these sides met in the National League a few weeks ago, Killester took the bragging rights by three points.
Derek started out at the age of 13 playing wheelchair sport, doing athletics, the shot-put, discus, and the 100-metre and 200-metre sprints. He played those sports until the age of 15, and then he started to play basketball.
His first basketball team was the Dublin side Celts because at the time as they were no wheelchair teams based in Cork. Celts played in the newly reformed National League at the time, and its there were Derek fell in love with the game.
He then found it difficult to multi task the athletic events with the basketball because there was so much traveling involved and had to make a choice: that was basketball.
Derek then went on to play a season with the Limerick Steelers, before going back to play with Dublin Dynamos for another season.
He then came back to Leeside to play and start up a club called Munster Dynamos with Paul Ryan. The newly formed Munster Dynamos started out playing in the second tier of the National League, and they soon won that division to get promoted to the top flight in their first year.
After two years Dynamos decided to join Fr Mathew’s BC to get more exposure as Mathew’s had many teams, and were a very well recognised club around the country.
They then amalgamated with the Rebel Wheeers club three years ago, basically because they were a wheelchair organisation that plays a number of wheelchair sports.
The Echo caught up with Derek and his father Kevin this week to talk about tomorrow’s final. Kevin spoke how he and his family are so proud of their son.
“We as a family, Derek’s mother and myself are so proud of him, and what he achieved with his hard work and dedication.
“It was difficult in the early years trying to get Derek to games all over the country, but I wouldn’t change anything because he fills me with joy every time he plays the sport we all love,” dad Kevin said.
Derek explained he was grateful to all the people who helped him along the road in his journey, especially his father Kevin.
”It’s been amazing journey for me personally to be honest, as when I started playing sports I was too young to drive.
“It’s not like today to access facilities available to wheelchair sports, because they were limited services available back then.
“My dad was amazing bringing me and my equipment all over the country to play games and train at a drop of a hat, and I will be forever grateful to him for doing that,” Derek said.
“I was lucky enough to get to play for my country in 2015, however, I had to work very hard going to the trials and do a special program to make the team. The hard work paid off, and I got to play in the European Championships that year. My role in the Rebels team has changed over the years.
“When I started playing, the older players helped me on and off the court, now I try and help our young players.
“It’s funny really as I would never would have looked at myself as a role model, and probably fell into my new role by accident," Derek said with a big smile. "However, I really love watching the younger players blossom in our team.
"The game against Killester will be a very difficult. They improved greatly this year and they beat us by three points a few weeks ago in the league.
"Finally, I would like to thank all the parents and volunteers who do trojan work behind the scenes for our team, and we will do our best to bring the cup back to Leeside for the second year in a row.”