Timing is everything... with the GAA on a break it was great to watch O'Sullivan rising to the next level on the basketball court

Timing is everything... with the GAA on a break it was great to watch O'Sullivan rising to the next level on the basketball court
Demons' Adrian O'Sullivan and Kieran Donaghy of Tralee. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

ONLY the hardcore make it to the hurling alley to work on their touch or the muddy fields to refine their 45s at this time of year.

Even a puritanical inter-county disciple is entitled to stick on a Christmas jumper and tuck into the Quality Street while watching Die Hard and Love Actually on the telly. The odd nutter from Dublin or Kilkenny might be opting out from the festivities to hit personal bests in the gym or run sand dunes, but most still try to enjoy December.

Of course there are a few GAA competitions that rumble towards the Christmas period. Lately we saw a memorable first U16.5 C hurling triumph for Ballincollig Community School when Killian Lee struck for a hat-trick and some high-stakes Corn Uí Mhuirí action. Despite having St Finbarr’s Cillian Meyers-Murray and Nemo’s Mark Cronin, the younger brother of Alan and Stephen, Críost Rí were surprisingly eliminated in the group stages.

The Harty Cup is down to the last eight, but the Dr O’Callaghan Cup final for the elite hurling schools in Cork took place in Riverstown last week. Even in miserable conditions, Midleton CBS franked their status as one of the leading contenders for the Harty Cup crown in the new year with a major win over Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG.

John O'Brien, Chairman Cork Post Primary Schools, presents the O'Callaghan Cup to Sean O'Leary Hayes and Liam Gosnell. Picture: Jim Coughlan
John O'Brien, Chairman Cork Post Primary Schools, presents the O'Callaghan Cup to Sean O'Leary Hayes and Liam Gosnell. Picture: Jim Coughlan

The northsiders can call on the likes of Na Piarsaigh duo Daire Connery and Greg Healy, the Glen’s Shane Busteed, Watergrasshill’s Shane O’Regan and Inniscarra’s Liam Ryan — while Blake Murphy was injured – but couldn’t take down a gifted Midleton side. CBS are built around Cork minor stars Sean O’Leary Hayes, Ger Millerick, Liam O’Shea, as well as U17 All-Ireland winner Joe Stack and Carrigtwohill’s Liam Gosnell.

Both schools are doing incredible work for Cork hurling. Midleton supplied 29 players to the Cork underage squads this year, securing seven trophies from U14 to minor. The AG have Glen’s powerful U15 Luke Horgan coming through, while Rebel minor dynamos Evan Sheehan and Craig Hanifin did their Leaving Cert back last June.

On the same night Midleton beat the AG, UCC Demons were involved in a huge National Cup quarter-final against Tralee Warriors at a packed Parochial Hall. GAA might be in its off-season but it’s full-tilt on the basketball front.

There was a strong GAA flavour in the Hall thanks to the presence of Kieran Donaghy in the Kerry side, while Demons player-coach Colin O’Reilly was a gifted hurler in his youth, playing and scoring for Blackrock when they were county champions.

Those two were the most recognisable on the court but the headlines were stolen by Adrian O’Sullivan, with his 26-point haul which included three three-pointers — two of which snatched the lead in the fourth quarter – and 14 points in the first half. Those vital early scores were mainly from lay-ups, where he used his acceleration to drive to the basket with the flourish of NBA star Kyrie Irving.

While basketball is a minority sport, it’s hard to beat at this time of year when you don’t want to risk pneumonia on a GAA sideline. While the league is important in Irish basketball, the cup is box-office, drawing the crowds and getting TV coverage — though not on RTÉ anymore unfortunately.

Demons versus Tralee is usually good and this was no exception, as the Cork club have a tight panel this season and are out of the league race. The cup matters for those who pull on the blue singlet and this time their campaign hinged on reaching the semi-final against Templeogue, at home, on January 6.

UCC's Adrian O'Sullivan and Goran Pantovic of Tralee in action. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
UCC's Adrian O'Sullivan and Goran Pantovic of Tralee in action. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

The basketball itself was scrappy, particularly in the first half with some sloppy misses, while Demons wasted too much energy arguing with refs, which saw their captain Kyle Hosford – who plays a bit of Gaelic football with Delanys incidentally — getting ejected. Still it all added to the drama, with Warriors bringing a small but vocal crew over the border, and the atmopshere was magnified in the confines of the Parochial Hall, with the Mardyke Arena unavailable due to college exams.

O’Sullivan rose to the occasion but then his form has been excellent lately.

Adrian first shone for Demons in the 2014 semi-final against Killester when he came off the bench to hit 13 points, including the last three to force overtime. This was different though. Back then Lehmon Colbert and O’Reilly shared 44 points, this time it was 22.

Here O’Sullivan inspired Demons from the off.

The 24-year-old comes from genuine basketball pedigree through his parents Francis and Grace, while his brother Ciarán is a former Demon now back with Ballincollig, where his cousin Ronan also features and uncle Kieran is the coach. 

They’ll all be involved now on the cup semi-final weekend which will be staged in the Marydke and Neptune Stadium, as Francis is coach to the Brunell women’s team. As well as that he works with Ballincollig’s U14s and U11s, which highlights his grá for the game and coaching itself.

And it was fantastic to see Adrian’s former principal from Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin, Gabriel Ó Cathasaigh, on hand to lend his support. Just like the GAA, all Irish sport is local in the end.

UCC Demons' Adrian O'Sullivan pictured with his former primary school principal Gabriel Ó Cathasaigh from Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin after the win over Tralee. Picture: Twitter.
UCC Demons' Adrian O'Sullivan pictured with his former primary school principal Gabriel Ó Cathasaigh from Gaelscoil Uí Riordáin after the win over Tralee. Picture: Twitter.

More in this section

Sponsored Content