THE recent death of the former Cork basketball chairman Billy Coffey brought widespread sadness to his family and to the many friends he had made in his life.
Billy, (71) was born in Dublin and joined the ASM in 1965 at Cathal Brugha Barracks.
When he completed his training he was posted to the No.2 Army Band or the Band of the Southern Command in Collins Barracks in 1967 as a Flute and Piccolo player.
Billy received another promotion to Company Sergeant in the Band in 1990 and to Sergeant Major in 2001 before retiring from the Defence Forces in 2006 after serving 42 years.
In 1970, he met the love of his life Mary, and they married in St Patrick's Church on the Lower Glanmire Road in 1972.
Billy and Mary were blessed with five sons Alan, Kevin, Ronan, Nicholas and Stephen with three grandchildren Mark, Brian and Jaylen.
On the basketball front, Billy was elected on to the Cork County Basketball board as Treasurer in 1976 and later became Chairman a role he held for 41 years.
In those many years Billy held multiple appointments in order to facilitate the playing of Men’s Basketball in Cork City and County and also held positions at National level on different Basketball Ireland Committees.
In a nutshell, Billy Coffey served basketball in Cork and held it on his shoulders for the past 45 years.
In his work capacity he served on the National Executive of PDFORRA (Permanent Defence Force Representative Association) and was Vice President before being elected President in 2002.
Billy was the chief and supremo of Cork basketball and recently elected chairman Francis O’Sullivan paid tribute to him for his incredible work over four decades.
“For the majority of us involved in basketball he was a guardian of the sport on so many levels and he held everybody to high standards as it was all about accountability and doing your business correctly just as he did during his lifetime,” said Francis O’Sullivan.
“When dealing with Basketball Ireland and the various county boards in this country where he was also chairman nationally, he held them to high standards and that was the honest way he always operated.”
One of Billy’s friends in the sport was Blue Demons founder member Jim Dineen who was visibly upset when informed of Billy’s passing.
“I have been associated with the sport for over 60 years and was a former secretary of the County Board and I feel as a friend I am able to give an honest assessment of Billy’s work during his 40 plus years involved in the sport,” said Jim Dineen.
“Billy was always a gentleman to deal with and conducted the business of the board in a very fair and progressive manner.
“Many great people have been involved in basketball over the years, but I feel Billy surpassed them with his commitment and dedication over such a long period.
“On the back of Billy’s work the Cork County Board hosted tournaments at all levels under his guidance and the success rate was phenomenal.
“I could go on and the many achievements that Billy succeeded in doing but it would take too long as its very simple he gave his life to our sport as a volunteer.”
Chairman of Neptune basketball club Paul Barrett also expressed his sadness when informed of his passing.
“What do you say about a man who held basketball together for so long in this city and county as he was a pleasure to deal with and his ability to organize was a level that will never again be reached again in our sport,” said Paul Barrett.
Many clubs and members from clubs all over this country sent their condolences but one from the Killester basketball club in Dublin probably summed up what many would have thought about the great man during his incredible time involved in Cork basketball.
“Our deepest sympathies to the Coffey family on the loss of Billy.
"Always a gentleman he had a warm welcoming smile at the door of the Parochial Hall as we arrived with our young teams excited to play in one of the many, many tournament Billy and his committee ran.
"Our administrators were always in awe of his deep knowledge of Basketball rules and regulations and in particular his National Area Board Committee, who will find it extremely difficult to replace his leadership and guidance in which he always had in an abundance.
"Basketball is mourning in the passing of one of the nicest and informed volunteers.”
Those kind words sum up how high Billy Coffey was held by the majority of clubs not alone in this city but in every corner of Ireland that had a basketball club.
The shock of Billy’s passing has numbed many in the sport as he was only diagnosed eight weeks ago with his incurable cancer and having spent the spent the majority of that time at home with his family he passed away peacefully in Marymount Hospice.
Our bright spark of genius has been extinguished.
Well may the trumpets sound for him on the other side.
You will be missed Billy.