Basketball has always been a family affair for the Foley brothers

After a lifetime involved in the game, their passion for hoops hasn't diminished
Basketball has always been a family affair for the Foley brothers

Cork basketball: The Foley brothers, Brian, Tony, Ken and Mark at Fitzgerald’s Park recently.

THE Foley brothers spend most of their time growing up playing basketball at the outdoor court on Wyse’s Hill.

Known as the One Miler or the Wanna, it was also the training ground of Blue Demons Basketball Club at the time.

The six brothers, Tony, Ken, Brian, Ivan, Mark, and Niall hold special memories of that time, the late 70s, where they all learned how play the game they love, and are still very much involved with today.

The brothers grew up at Rope Walk on Sunday’s Well with their sister Christine, mother Margaret and father Tony Sr, a stone’s throw from the Wanna. Oldest brother Tony, who was an excellent point guard, spent his entire career with the Sunday’s Well club, and he went on to play with the Team Britvic side that won the National League in 1984.

“I started playing basketball at the age of seven down the Wanna,” Tony said.

“I played under coach Conny Daly, who I think was years ahead of his time, as every training session was different; we would have different drills, however, they all had the same concept, which was how to play the game properly.

”I played right through the ranks with Demons and went to America in the summer of 1983 with Jim O’Sullivan to attend various summer camps in Connecticut. When we returned, we made the National League team, where I went on to play for a number of years.

“After years coaching elsewhere, I recently returned to Demons to help out coaching with my brother Brian, and I’m really enjoying giving something back to the game,” Tony added.

Singleton's SuperValu Brunell senior player Aoife Dineen with 'nursery' coach Ken Foley with young players. Picture: Larry Cummins
Singleton's SuperValu Brunell senior player Aoife Dineen with 'nursery' coach Ken Foley with young players. Picture: Larry Cummins

Ken Foley was a wholehearted player, a great rebounder, who always did his job on the boards for Demons, however, it’s his coaching skills that he is better known for; he will be coaching with the Brunell Basketball Academy for 21 years this season, and he has been coaching with the Blue Demons Academy for the last 11 years also.

“I started playing with Demons from the age of eight, right up to playing Division 1, and 2 for a 30-year period,” Ken said.

“However, I get more enjoyment from coaching the kids in both clubs, as I get a huge kick seeing them growing into good players, and more importantly, good people.

“The proudest moment in my coaching career came when I watched Danielle O’Leary, Edel Thornton, and Amy Waters, who came right through the ranks for Brunell, from the Academy to senior, to represent the Irish Senior Ladies team in the European Small Countries at the Mardyke Arena a couple of years ago.

“It’s so important these days to keep the kids playing with so many distractions, but my policy is to keep the game simple and let the kids enjoy the sport,” Ken added.

Tony Foley and Brian Foley with a championship-winning U13 Blue Demons team
Tony Foley and Brian Foley with a championship-winning U13 Blue Demons team

Brian is the maverick of the Foley family. He is well known all over Ireland for his shooting skills.

To this day he can be still seen banging in long-range three-pointers in the Division One Cork League for Demons.

He also started from a young age down the Wanna under coach Dommie Mullins and remembers the summer leagues as his favorite time from his youth.

He also coaches several underage teams for his club with his brother Tony and has been doing so for the past 15 years.

“My favorite time down the Wanna was the summer leagues when all the young players got to play with our heroes growing up, the likes of senior players Seanie Murphy, Timmy McCarthy, Mono McCarthy, and John Cooney,” Brian said.

The lads often slag me about me shooting the ball in games, as they say, I would shoot the ball from my own back garden. 

However, I was once told that Christy Ring wouldn’t pass the sliotar from 50 yards either when he could put it over the bar from that range, so I won’t pass the basketball from 30 feet when I could put it in the basket myself!” he added to howls of laughter from his siblings.

“I also coach for the club as I’m a firm believer in giving something back to the young players because the coaches gave so much time to my family when we were growing up.”

The old court on Wyse’s Hill, known as the One-Miler or the Wanna where the Foley brothers spend most of their childhood playing basketball.
The old court on Wyse’s Hill, known as the One-Miler or the Wanna where the Foley brothers spend most of their childhood playing basketball.

Ivan, who is Brian’s twin, was a magnificent point guard in his juvenile days and got a scholarship to America to attend St Joseph’s High School in Connecticut for a season.

“I will always remember my days growing up as it was my mother, Margaret, who was the driving force behind all my brothers to play basketball,” Ivan said.

“I went to the States for a year at the age of 17, however, when I returned I lost interest in the game and gave up for a number of years.

”The biggest influence on me was Conny Daly; he always looked out for me, on and off the court, and it was Conny who got me back playing in the late '80s when I returned to play with the North Mon National League team for two years.”

Singleton's SuperValu Brunell coach Tim O'Halloran and assistant Mark Foley. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Singleton's SuperValu Brunell coach Tim O'Halloran and assistant Mark Foley. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Brothers Mark and Niall played their juvenile careers under the stewardship of older brother Tony. Mark also had coaching stints with Fr Mathew’s for a number of years and spent two seasons as an assistant coach to Brunell’s National League team recently.

“We had a magnificent juvenile career and we won several trophies under the guidance of my brother Tony,” Mark said. “We did have some very good players with Paul Hayes, Stephen Hurley and Niall Rice helping us to be successful.”

The Foley family at a recent function, back: Mark, Christine, Brian, Niall, Tony, Ivan, Ken; front: mother Margaret and father Tony Sr.
The Foley family at a recent function, back: Mark, Christine, Brian, Niall, Tony, Ivan, Ken; front: mother Margaret and father Tony Sr.

This interview took place in the fantastic Fitzgerald’s Park where the brothers meet up every Sunday for the weekly game of ball or rounders with their own kids.

It shows how important family, sport and having fun are to this fantastic family who have given their lives to the sport they love.

Long may it continue.

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