THE sport of basketball has produced many quality players in Cork but few as consistent as former UCC Blue Demons star Shane Coughlan.
It all began for Shane as a raw seven-year-old when in his own words he was given the perfect start when attending Demons nursery under the guidance of Seanie Murphy.
At juvenile level, it was noticeable early doors that Coughlan was a star in the making and he was voted MVP twice in the prestigious Billy Kelly U17 tournament that attracts the elite sides to Cork.
Before Shane graced the courts in Cork his late father Peter played with Demons at the top level and uncle Joe was a former Irish senior international.
Anyone who had followed the Irish game over the noughties at Super League level would be familiar with the casual grace he played with and his love for Demons was always a priority when it came to winning games on the big stage.
For a few years in Cork city, basketball was the only show in town and who could forget the packed Parochial Hall in Gurranabraher and the Neptune Stadium.
He didn’t witness those glory years and after witnessing the game go through peaks and dire struggles in his playing career, he believes the flaring success of the game was a matter of place in time.
“It would probably would have been hard to match the early days of basketball, but I think when you had so much interest from the general public and then decide to reduce the Americans from two to one it was a crazy decision.
“Basketball Ireland eventually decided to revert back to two Americans but the crowds with the exception in Cork when Demons and Neptune clashed in local derby games never returned.”
When basketball in your veins it was natural for Coughlan to try and ensure his club would reach the summit of the sport and it began for him in 1998/99 season when he first played in the Super League.
After winning nine National Cups and three Super Leagues that saw him captain Demons to go through the 2014/15 season unbeaten the mojo came to an end in the summer of 2015 after travelling to China.
Many of the opposing Super League clubs around the country rejoiced as he had been a thorn in their side for many years.
The reason given was at 36 he couldn’t accept been a part player as getting little or no court time playing with Ireland in China. He recalled that nightmare tour.
Many felt that Coughlan although 36 retired two or three years too soon; in his own words it was the right decision.
“I think to be at the top of your game you have got to be committed because basically playing in the Super League takes over your life.”
Operating at Super League level for 18 years and being awarded MVP in consecutive cup finals is some achievement. However, he believes basketball is the ultimate team game and not about individuals.
“Thankfully I played with some outstanding Irish and American players but for me Niall O’Reilly was the best-signing Demons made and crucial to us during our glory years.”
The debate about quality Americans is always interesting and Shane summed up his experience of playing with professionals.
“I think in different years Patrick Pope and James Singleton were great players you could look for when games were on the line and I really enjoyed playing with Lehmon Colbert at the end of my career as he was strong in the post and knew when to dish it out when players were in better scoring positions.”
On the coaching side, Coughlan believes the knowledge and man management of American Doug Leichner stood head and shoulders above various coaches who were at the helm describing him as the ‘Real Deal’.
Nowadays Shane is enjoying retirement with his beautiful wife Allison and son Max who recently celebrated his second birthday.
August 31, 2018, is a date that Shane will never forget when he sadly lost his father Peter.
“It was tough for all my family but when I look back, I do honestly think he was proud of my achievements in the sport, but always kept his feelings close to his chest.
“My dad was a man that few people had a bad word for and hopefully I will follow the footsteps in the manner he conducted himself.
“My mam Vera was another key factor behind the scenes as I think it’s important to acknowledge all parent’s contribution in sport.”
When Demons went out of the Super League in 2019 Shane wasn’t overly surprised though it was a sad day for men like his late father, Jim Dineen and Dan Byrne to name a few.
“The conveyor belt had stopped as we took our eye off the ball and for some strange reason players consistently left the club and in the end, the squad hadn’t enough players for training sessions.”
The greatest sportspeople in the world are sometimes unassuming people and for Shane Coughlan, it was always a case of doing his talking on the court that easily put him into the Leeside Legend category.