Neptune hoops legend Ger Noonan happy to pass ball to next generation

Gifted northside baller has made way for young guns to hit the court
Neptune hoops legend Ger Noonan happy to pass ball to next generation

C&S Neptune's Ger Noonan gets off his pass to Lehmon Colbert during the Super League game at the Neptune Stadium. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

LEESIDE has produced many quality basketball players over the years, including recently retired Neptune stalwart Ger Noonan.

It ball began for Ger as a young boy watching players going into the Neptune Stadium on his way home from school at the North Mon.

“My first experience was at the Neptune academy and under coach Tony O’Connell I fell in love with the game.”

Living close to the stadium Ger had close friends as his buddy, the late Emmett Neville, Ger Quinlan and Patrick O’Mahony were all involved that made it all that more enjoyable for the Neptune stalwart.

He was always highly rated by the Blackpool outfit but departed from the club for a short time to play with Killarney in the Super League.

“There were a few reasons but the main one was that it offered me an opportunity to play basketball and get work as I was unemployed at the time, but I enjoyed myself in Killarney where I met some great people.

After coming back Neptune struggled in the noughties against the all-conquering UCC Demons team of that era but in 2014 that all changed when they defeated UL Eagles in the National Cup final.

“After losing out on a number of occasions at the semi-final stage winning that Cup win meant a lot to me and the club in general and it was definitely one of the highlights of my career.”

Ger Noonan and Michael McGinn of Bord Gais Neptune lift the cup in 2013. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan
Ger Noonan and Michael McGinn of Bord Gais Neptune lift the cup in 2013. Picture: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

After playing at the top level for 18 years, Noonan is not convinced the sport will ever return to its former glory years.

Back in the day reducing the Americans from two to one per team was a huge mistake because if you are training with two good Americans it improves you as a player.

“I remember playing against Demons when they were at their best and they could have four Irish players on the court, but all those guys earned their minutes.”

The athleticism among the Irish players in recent years is very evident according to Noonan.

“When you look at Kyle Hosford and Lorcan Murphy of Templeogue jamming it on a weekly basis it’s a serious watch something I never witnessed growing up among Irish players.”

He was widely acclaimed for his ability to post and pass with some dazzling moves but with a smile he feels doing the basics right sometimes goes amiss with the modern players, despite their fitness and athleticism.

“I used to look at Shane Coughlan and the amount of times he broke our hearts by basically doing the simple things when the game because when games were in the balance, he always found a way to hit the big shots.”

When the three-point line was introduced Ger had mixed feelings and although not disagreeing with it he does feel some of the players and professionals think it is solely their main role on the court.

“I would like to see players on the bench take more heed what’s going on in the game as some of them are just pouting thinking they have an entitlement to be playing.”

Ger met the love of his life Jodie in 2006 and married in 2010 and they were blessed with four children Sean, Noah and twins Ella and Edel.

When he decided to call it a day to his basketball career back in August he knew his body had taken its toll at the top level.

“I have turned 39 so when you are coming up against the athletic young players in the Super League it gets harder and harder and it was time to let the young guns strut their skills.”

 Ger Noonan, Coughlan C and S Neptune, dives at the ball with David Jallow and Dominic Lynn, Belfast Star. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
Ger Noonan, Coughlan C and S Neptune, dives at the ball with David Jallow and Dominic Lynn, Belfast Star. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

The present pandemic is worrying and Noonan is putting too much hope on the sport getting started in this country this season.

“Jordan Blount is in Spain and although they got up and running behind closed doors but there are still many games cancelled on a weekly basis due to Covid.

“The story is you might get tested on a Monday and by Wednesday half your team has the virus and that seems to be the present trend in soccer and rugby.”

Before he retired he had moved into coaching at the Neptune academy and also with the Neptune U13 team that includes his son Sean.

“There is no doubt the most important part of any club is your juvenile section and you can see at Demons that Seanie Murphy brought many players through from the academy stage and there is great satisfaction watching them mature into fine athletes.”

The Neptune basketball team with their coach Ger Noonan when they reached the 2020 U12 tournament final last season.
The Neptune basketball team with their coach Ger Noonan when they reached the 2020 U12 tournament final last season.

Many kids in this country head to America on basketball scholarships and, although not disagreeing with the opportunity to head Stateside, Noonan believes education is very important.

“Every player has the right to follow their dream and getting a scholarship is great but even if you make the grade and play professionally until your early 30s you then need to have the relevant qualifications to get a job and that’s vital.”

Nowadays life for Ger Noonan after his 12-hour shiftwork is solely on his wife and children but the sport of basketball will be forever in gratitude to him for his outstanding contribution on- and off-court during his illustrious career.

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