OVER many years the UCC Glanmire coach Mark Scannell has proved to be one of the most successful coaches in Irish basketball but with no action since last March the pandemic has certainly tested the patience of many in the sport.
Like every other coach in the country, Scannell is frustrated, annoyed and angry and yet completely understanding at the same time. This pandemic is unprecedented in modern times and Scannell appreciates why basketball is at a standstill at present.
And with no visible way back for the sport at this moment in time, all he can do is look ahead to better days and reflect on the great work he began at Glanmire last season.
“Last season at Glanmire we began a rebuilding process and with Aine Casey and Miriam Loughrey coming through and I thought we did an excellent job in finishing runners-up in the Super League,” said Mark Scannell.
The squad that Scannell assembled last season was one that coach Scannell was very proud to be associated with.
“We had two excellent Americans in Shirita Parker and Tatum Newburn and the atmosphere in the team was excellent which made my job a lot easier,” added Scannell.
After struggling in 2019 with Americans and injuries the Glanmire chief believes the feelgood factor was certainly back going into this cancelled season.
“It was enjoyable as the players were committed and everybody seemed to be smiling and that to me without winning trophies is a huge plus.”
Glanmire certainly added great strength to their squad with Claire Rockall returning after playing two seasons at her childhood club Maree and with Claire Melia also coming on board it was looking good for Glanmire.
“It was great to see Claire Rockall coming back and when Claire Melia phoned us last summer and indicated she wanted to play after returning from an American scholarship we looked a formidable unit.”
The pre-season for Glanmire was a good one but just a week before the season was going to start in October the plug was pulled.
“There was nothing we could do as people’s lives are more important than playing basketball but I really felt sorry for the players who had put in so much effort getting prepared.”
Coach Scannell had two class Americans in his squad with Parker returning but a player called Anna Haydon who was tipped to light up the league may not return as she found pastures new on her return to the States.
“We all knew what Shirita was going to bring to the table, but I knew Anna was sheer class but sadly she was signed by a club in Portugal when she returned home and that’s a pity as my assistant coach Ronan O’Sullivan did an excellent job recruiting her.”
Despite Basketball Ireland getting some criticism from some quarters about lack of direction Scannell believes the association did its very best.
“Look I was one person driving hard to get the league started but in reality, I don’t think Basketball Ireland could have done much more.
“Indoor sports do not have a seat at the top table and with no disrespect to any of them but all of have been left behind as the GAA, rugby and soccer will always do their own thing. We cannot allow ourselves to think we should be getting the same treatment.”
The present pandemic is very serious and coach Scannell believes it would be foolish to be looking back.
“The way the virus has increased the season wouldn’t have lasted but I am only looking forward to be prepared to deal with this problem as I cannot see any action in the summer.
“My own idea is if we have the ducks in a row that maybe August or September would be a legitimate target for next season to start.”
Coach Scannell also believes that outside of the Men’s and Women’s Super Leagues taking care of the youth in this country must be the one priority for all clubs.
“The kids are lost. We must not take our eye off the ball and get them back on court in the summer, even if it's outdoor as soon as this virus gets under control. They are the future of our sport.
“Kids from 14 to 17 are really being hammered as I remember at that age, they are the crucial years.
Hopefully we will not lose many players to other sports because that’s also a real possibility.”
Club basketball, tournaments and academies have all been impacted in recent months and Scannell is adamant that a plan will have to be put in place to ensure that all return sooner than later.
“As I previously said we have no business looking back and for people’s mental health is crucial and that’s why sport is key in every sense of the word.
“Let’s be honest young people have lost interaction with their friends as schools are also closed and in a nutshell, the rug has been pulled under them and it’s important that we make sure their welfare and wellbeing is number one priority.”
The Small Countries European championships are due to be held this summer but coach Scannell is doubtful they will take place.
“People cannot book a holiday for the summer and in all honesty playing these tournaments would be the easy task as they proved that with the NBA when they had a bubble in Florida.
“The problem will be the logistic side of getting teams in with borders closed and with quarantines and protocols in place and I honestly don’t believe it will happen although I hope that I am proved wrong.”
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