WHEN UCC Demons opted out of the league in 2019 it sent shockwaves through Irish basketball, but two years later they have returned back into the Men’s Division 1.
Newly appointed coach Danny O’Mahony has a huge Demons pedigree but spent a number of years in Dublin before returning to Cork with his wife Jodie and daughter Maisie.
“I started playing with Demons at the age of six right up to 24, but work commitments took me to Dublin where I played with Killester in the Dublin League under coach Jermaine Turner.”
Work commitments took their toll on his playing career, but his skills in doing commentary for Basketball Ireland at cup finals didn’t go unnoticed, while his love of coaching saw him help at basketball camps.
Kubs in Dublin asked O’Mahony to coach their U18 Boys and their Division 1 side in the local league and such was their success, he moved on to coach the club at National League level.
In 2018, he married Jodie Black in Cork and it was then back to Leeside to settle down before the birth of daughter Maisie. On his return, O’Mahony took over UCC Demons U20 team who actually qualified for the semi-final of the National League in 2020 before Covid forced it to be cancelled.
When Demons got an opportunity to get back in the National League, he put a plan in place before sitting down with their executive committee.
“I wanted a side that would take the club forward long-term and it was all about working with players that were part of my U20 team with of course getting an American.”
Demons’ new American signing is Andre Kennedy, a former Alabama Bulldogs’ Class of 2019 who hails from Albany, Georgia but enjoyed a brief spell with Kordall Steelers in Luxembourg after graduating in Sports Management at Alabama. During his senior year he was runner-up as Conference Player of the Year.
Among the local players are David Lehane, Tala Fam Thiam, Seamus Kearney, Cian Looney, Blake Murphy, Kevin Moynihan, and Craig Sweeney along with the return of some familiar Demons faces including Irish international Kyle Hosford, Ryan Murphy, and Conor Ryan. Murphy was an U20 All-Ireland footballer winner with Cork in 2019 while Moynihan replicated that with the Rebel hurlers this summer.
The squad also includes U18 Irish international Jack O’Leary along with current U20s Mathew McCarthy and Jordan Ukah. The team is completed by Serbian-born Canadian Stevan Manojlovic, a UCC law student.
“Absolutely, and at the moment we have an Irish senior international and the U18 equivalent in Jack O’Leary and Kyle is bringing his experience in guiding our young players, but when he is playing he will be totally focused on that department.
“Our American is not up to speed but is athletic and will be ready when we need him and, of course, we have a UCC student in Stevan Manojlovic, so at the moment the squad looks decent.”
Demons received a recent setback when Carleton Cuff picked up an Achilles injury that has ended his hopes of playing. Spanish star Tala Fam has returned in super shape and is one player that will pose many defences problems in this league.
Looking ahead to the opening months O’Mahony believes his side will be very competitive and he is hoping that Demons fans past and present will come and support them.
“The league has changed from when I coached three years ago and it was very rare that teams had more than one American, but this season every team has two and a couple of Bosmans, but for me, I am trying to make sure the local identity doesn’t go out the window.
“The last time Demons won the cup in Division 1 there were no Americans in the team and that’s how things have changed in this country.”
He has also named Stuart Rodgers as one of his assistants and his experience will be a major help to the young players in the squad.
The preparations are over and Demons get ready for a trip over the county bounds when they play Killarney Cougars.
“It’s incredible that a small town like Killarney can have two teams; that’s what happens when people are not pulling in the same direction, but we will have to be careful as they have a number of experienced players.”