Drummond and Bantry Basketball Club are moving in the right direction

Drummond and Bantry Basketball Club are moving in the right direction
Bantry basketball club, and coach Craig Drummond (back right), enjoyed an epic 2018-19 season.

DOWN in Bantry, they’re enjoying a well-deserved break from basketball.

Watching the NBA playoffs, which culminated in Toronto dethroning the Golden State Warriors, has provided a hardwood fix during the off-season but it won’t be long before the return to the court again.

The West Cork town is proving the game isn’t exclusively the preserve of the blue bloods on Leeside like Neptune and Demons. At second level their schools’ teams are mixing it with the best from around the country, their underage is thriving for boys and girls, and both their men’s sides collected trophies in 2018-‘19.

Bantry celebrate an U12 Shield win. Picture: Mike English
Bantry celebrate an U12 Shield win. Picture: Mike English

Their success is built on a close-knit, hardworking club but has been accelerated by the coaching of former Neptune SuperLeague player Craig Drummond and teacher Pa Curran, a driving force in Coláiste Pobail Bheanntraí. Drummond has a passion for coaching and is doing a masters degree at UCC in Coaching and Personnel Management. 

It helped he came through Neptune’s famed academy, a production line of internationals. “I started out when I was six or seven years of age and I was coached by some of the best, Noelie Allen, Seanie Murphy, Martin Aherne and more.”

North Mon player who won MVP awards: Carleton Cuff, Niall Murphy, Craig Drummond and Shane O'Connell. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
North Mon player who won MVP awards: Carleton Cuff, Niall Murphy, Craig Drummond and Shane O'Connell. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

He played with some top basketballers as well, including Gary Walsh, Ger Noonan, Stephen McCarthy, Paul Keenan and Gordan Fitzgerald, while in the North Mon Carleton Cuffe was a peer as they competed for All-Ireland glory. Now living in Ballydehob with Aisling and their son Toby, he was warmly welcomed when he landed in Bantry three seasons ago.

“It’s a great sporting town. There’s a crossover with GAA and rugby but we work together. Kids who play multiple sports should be encouraged.

“The school is very accessible in terms of allowing kids to try basketball out and the underage numbers are incredible really. There’s a big interest from the younger ages and you can see that at U10 training for boys and girls.”

Bantry Basketball Club coach Craig Drummond with his son watching a game.
Bantry Basketball Club coach Craig Drummond with his son watching a game.

Drummond’s adamant it’s not all about winning at underage.

“You’ll have early developers and late bloomers. With kids you just have to keep them keen and have faith.”

Whatever about underage, Bantry are flying at senior. They’ve a blend of veterans and rising stars, with “everyone pulling in the one direction”.

“We’ve a mix of cultures and ages and we ended up with a panel of 17 and our ethos was honesty. The minimum we had that turned up to any game was nine.

“Now you’ve to remember Brian O’Connell and Tadhg Linehan are in college in Limerick; Tony Sheehan has twins at home and Shane O’Neill has a young child as well. There’s a fair bit of travelling to go up to the Parochial Hall or Neptune Stadium for matches but we were such a close group we kept at it.” 

The U18 crew like Kevin Clifford, Shane Murray and Niall and Gerard O’Keeffe pushed on the older guns.

“They forced the men to get fitter but it also toughens up those younger players, the physicality at training.”

Model Emily Ratajkowski, who has Bantry links, tweeted congrats to Bantry when they landed school silverware in 2018. We better give her the heads up that there’s more to come, next season and beyond.

The Bantry schools basketball team.
The Bantry schools basketball team.

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