IT will be all systems go for Fr Mathew’s player-coach Darko Bucan as he hopes his side can make a big impact in the Men’s Division 1 League.
Bucan arrived in Ireland in 2013 and competed at a good level with Cork’s two basketball superpowers.
“When I first arrived here I played with Neptune who were on the back of a cup win in 2012 but it wasn’t a great experience for me and I was glad I joined UCC Demons as I was part of the squad that won the league and Champions Trophy in 2016,” said Bucan.
“I learned a lot playing with Demons as Colin and Niall O’Reilly were great leaders and in Kyle Hosford plus the O’Sullivan brothers Ciaran and Adrian it was a pleasure to play with quality players.”
He stayed another couple of seasons with Demons but in 2018 he decided travelling up and down the country didn’t suit him.
“I went out to Mathew’s because at that time in the Super League there were many Dublin teams and it seemed we were consistently on the road.”
The Mathew’s chief saw an opportunity to work with quality players and is delighted he made the decision to join the Model Farm Road-based club.
“In my first season I just played but near the end of that campaign our coach left and I took over in the last few games and the club must have been impressed as offered me a player-coach role the following season.”
It was an interesting season for Bucan before the Covid outbreak as his team were 14/7 in the league and reached the semi-final of the National Cup.
“For me, it was a very enjoyable season and I am indebted to Fr Mathew’s committee for giving me the opportunity and hopefully this season we can kick on.”
When Covid kicked in, he was lucky that his full-time profession didn’t restrict him to working from home.
“My partner and I work as Social Care workers for the Simon Community and that kept us going.”
He found himself disappointed for a second time just as the 2020 season was about to start in October.
“We had trained preseason and had our American in and two days before we were to kick off Basketball Ireland pulled the plug but there was little anybody could do at that time.”
It was then back to Zoom sessions and outdoor training in recent months but with the coast clear everything is now on track for basketball to return after a 20-month break.
Sadly for Mathew’s they have lost three players and coach Bucan took the opportunity to thank them for their contributions.
“Luke O’Mahony has stepped away from playing national league and he will be missed as he was a warrior at both ends of the floor.
“Declan Cahill has also decided that playing at this level doesn’t suit and Eoin Connolly has just moved to Dubai to take up a teaching job and again these lads all gave their hearts and souls to the club.”
The coming campaign will see many players produced by Mathew’s involved in the National League for the first time and Bucan is excited with the quality in his squad.
This season Mathew’s have signed American Jonathon Garcia and so far he looks a good fit for the team according to the Mathew’s chief.
“Jonathon was supposed to be a victory scholar for UL last season so we had an opportunity to work him out over the summer and that went very well.”
Mathew’s will have former UCC Demons stalwart Niall O’Reilly working as an assistant coach and Bucan is adamant he will bring a lot to the team.
“Niall’s experience will be invaluable and he will be vital for our team to progress and I am personally delighted to have him on board.”
Looking ahead, Bucan believes with Ballincollig now playing Super League they will be little to choose between many teams in Division 1.
“It should be interesting and hopefully we will give a good account of ourselves as we have great belief in our ability.”