NIAMH Dwyer, an icon Irish basketball icon on the court, is now passing her knowledge on in a coaching capacity with Fr Mathew’s in the Women’s Super League.
Dwyer didn’t get that opportunity last season as the pandemic shut the sport down but with a home game looming against Meteors it’s all systems go for the team.
“We put a lot of effort in only for the plug to be pulled two days before tip-off but look at the end of the day people were losing their lives and there was little Basketball Ireland could have done,” said Dwyer.
Getting through the last 19 months has been tough according but she praised players and backroom team alike.
“We had Shannon Brady our American leading the Zoom calls and over the summer we consistently had team bonding sessions but last January when the country was at a standstill we were all in a low way.”
Zoom parties and quizzes were part of the Mathew’s way of getting some team camaraderie to continue but Dwyer did learn a few things during the pandemic.
“I think on the other side of the coin we have learned not to take things for granted and also getting to know the good side of people was also a pleasure.”
Sadly she lost her father during the pandemic in November 2020 and that was hard to take for all her family.
“It was difficult for me to stay fully committed to the team and even looking back on my playing career my dad was always in the background and there’s not a day goes by that he doesn’t enter my thoughts.”
Over the years the sight of Mr Dwyer at games watching his daughters was a ritual as he was very proud of Niamh and sister Grainne.
This season Mathew’s have stuck with Americans Shannon Brady and Trish Byrne and with Aisling McCann joining from Killester plus the return of Hollie Herlihy the Cork side will definitely be competing with the best.
I have been involved with various teams over the years but I wouldn’t swap this squad for any side as they are so genuine and before the season starts I think it’s important to have a team that care.
“I like Hollie and Aisling as they can also play hard defence and I am looking forward to working them and testing their skills against the elite sides in the league.”
The Americans have a big impact in the Women’s Super League.
“I have seen Liffey Celtics winning silverware because they had quality Americans but it will be interesting as some of the Americans may have been side-lined with the virus but we will have to see what players make an immediate impact.”
Sticking to the process and using the squad will be crucial.
“Glanmire and DCU Mercy will be everybody’s fancy but Liffey Celtic have Ciara Bracken back and always recruit professionals well but I think in reality we will have a better idea by the end of October.”
In the present Mathew’s squad, Grainne Dwyer is the only player to have played competitively and Niamh is adamant nothing beats playing games.
“You can do all the running in the world but it doesn’t match being in a competitive game as I experienced in the States at college where you did running for six weeks before going on court and when you return playing there is every chance you would be out of breath.”
Dwyer was voted on the EPC committee which has the job of overseeing the various international teams.
“A lot of our work has been dealing with Covid and I didn’t expect that but look we need to ensure the welfare of all players.”
The Irish and Women’s Senior International teams were involved in the Small Countries European Championships in the summer and Niamh was impressed with their displays.
“The men’s team did well to win in Dublin and I suppose the Women’s side improved from sixth at their previous Small Countries in Cork to second on this occasion.
“To be fair both sides hadn’t played competitively for so long but they could have beaten Luxembourg in the final only for a five-minute lapse.”