KELLIE CAHALANE comes from a basketball dynasty in West Cork but on Sunday the Fr Mathew’s star bids for her first ever Cup medal.
Born in Castletownhsend, seven kilometres outside of Skibbereen, Cahalane competed with her older sisters Michelle and April on the village basketball court. Growing up in number 8, the trio would take on the Crowley boys, Colin and Alan, in number 1, and play pick-up until all hours during the summer months, until their mother Margaret called it a day.
It was of course where the Cahalanes learned how to play ball, and anyone who knows them, knows they have a serious competitive streak.
“Colin and Alan actually went on to play football with Cork after that so I think playing against the boys growing up, naturally made us that little bit more aggressive and competitive,” admits Kellie.
“We tried to get a some fella to paint the lines on the basketball court for us one day because we wanted it to be like the real deal, and sure I’d say they were miles off, but we didn’t care! We just wanted to play, so they were great times I have to say. Great memories.”
Her parents, Colin and Margaret, were also very sporty, and they instilled a huge sense of commitment and drive in their three daughters, who all finished up playing on the international stage in basketball for Ireland.
But, there was also rowing in the household too, which probably explains the stamina the Cahalanes are also known for.
“Yeah, mom and dad rowed for Castletownshend Rowing Club, and actually at one point, mom, Michelle, April and myself were competing, and dad coxed!
“We were like the Von Trapps out in the boat competing!” she laughs. “So yeah, that gave us our competitive nature too and we would have competed in coastal rowing in the summer, and then played basketball in the winter, so there was no let up when it came to sport.”
Cahalane won a number of local championship regatta medals, as well as All-Ireland coastal rowing medals from U15 level up, but then basketball took over.
“I’ve been going with the basketball now since I was 15, so I don’t know where next year will take me,” admitted the 31-year-old marketing manager for Musgrave Ltd.
“It’s a big commitment really.
“You’re talking about training for seven months or so of the year, and then you’re away every second weekend playing games so it does take its toll.
“I think I might take a step back and play local league or coach next year, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Of course there’s a wedding to plan for June as Cahalane will walk down the aisle with Fr Matthew’s men’s star, Paul O’Driscoll.
“It’s a basketball household really,” laughs Kellie, who is looking forward to taking on Meteors in the Hula Hoops Senior Women’s Cup final on Sunday at the National Basketball Arena (2pm).
“We had a great win over Swords two weeks ago in the semi-final, and I think it really just all came together for us. I think the introduction of a few younger players this year has transformed the team.
“Last year, we were trying to compete without an American, and then we were a much older side trying to compete with much faster and younger players, so the likes of Holly Herlihy and Olivia Dupuy have been great.
“The two of them are like balls of energy, and that’s the difference.
“We’ve a good mix, with the experience of Niamh (Dwyer) and Amanda (O’Regan), and our American too, Ashley Cunningham, had a great semi-final ripping down rebounds left, right, and centre, and that’s what we’ll need against Meteors again.
“They have two very tall girls inside, including their American, Shannon Brady, who averages about 30 points a game, so we’ll be under pressure.
“But, it’s 50:50 to-date because we beat them at the start of the season, and they beat us.
“Physically, they’re much bigger than us, so that’s something we’ll have to look at and decide what we need to do to stop them.”
But, the spirit in the camp is on fire at the minute, and hopes are high that Kellie and her teammates can win the Cork club’s first national title, at any level.
“At the cup semi-final two weeks ago, it really was a massive team effort.
“I don’t know if we would have won if we didn’t have that, to be honest.
“Players played well, but you have to appreciate the girls on the bench as well who are putting in as much effort, and making training so competitive.
“They’re cheering everyone on, and there’s a huge energy from the bench no matter who’s in or out, and that’s great.
“It really does make a huge difference to a team’s attitude.
“You need that reinforcement of everyone getting behind each other whether you’re playing minutes or not, and that’ll be the case again on Sunday.”
Cahalane knows too that in coach James ‘Boo Boo’ Fleming, they have a character whose passion for the game only ignites his side.
“This is Boo Boo’s second year, and he’s a lunatic!” she laughs.
“But, you cannot question the man’s commitment.
“He comes up from Kerry twice a week, to train us every Tuesday and Thursday, and he never misses a night.
“He also does a lot of background stuff and sponsorship, so that’s a massive help to us.
“But, there’s a competitive streak in him having played football with Dr Croke’s for years, and he obviously wants to win as much as us, so we’re all in it together.”
As to Kellie’s final thoughts on possible Cup victory, she finishes with four words - ‘it’s for the club’.
“If we can keep the same intensity on defence as we did against Swords, and have that same fire in the belly, then we have every chance.
“But, it’s not just about the 12 players or the coach, it’s a a huge day for the club.
“It’s their first National Cup final at any level, so it’s a big deal.
“There have been so many people who have put so much work in the background over the years with Fr Mathew’s, and they have been knocking at the door for a number of years now, so it would be great to do it for them.
“Hopefully, we can deliver on the day now because, it’s for the club,” she added.