Demons rising star Jack O’Leary ready to shine in two cup finals

Irish international will feature in the U20 National Cup final and the President's Cup
Demons rising star Jack O’Leary ready to shine in two cup finals

Jack O'Leary, UCC Demons U20 ace, with possession in a Men's Division 1 game. Picture: Larry Cummins.

THERE could be double delight this weekend for UCC Demons point guard, Jack O’Leary, starting with the U20 National Cup final.

Jack is also a key member of the Resident’s Cup squad that will be in action tomorrow against Drogheda Wolves.

As a youngster, Jack loved playing soccer, but his father’s family are steeped in Blue Demons and he joined them as a raw eight-year-old.

“My first coach was Stephen Hannigan and, credit to him, he was very good in giving me the basics of the sport and, from there, I played under Craig Duggan for one season,” said O’Leary.

The next coach for Jack was the charismatic Brian Foley, who guided him for the majority of his underage career.

“Brian is a true Blue Demons man and he was one hell of a motivator that always had the club at heart,” added O’Leary.

Dave Lehane and Dee Looney were the next coaches for Jack, before the pandemic struck, and now he is under Shane McCarthy, at U20 level, and Danny O’Mahony, in the Men’s Division 1.

“I always have respect for all my coaches, because, at the end of the day, they are doing a voluntary job, giving up hours of their family time to look after players like myself.”

Not many people gave Demons a chance at start of the season to reach a national cup final, but it is all down to commitment and attitude in the squad.

“I think Shane McCarthy has brought a calmness, but also a determination, into the squad and we have become a very solid team.”

In the opening rounds wins against Templeogue, Fr Mathew’s, and Eanna saw them reach the semi-final against local rivals Ballincollig. 

We got one hell of a tough draw, but you could see as the season matured we were getting better.”

Ballincollig were the favourites going into the semi-final, but Demons felt they could match up to them.

“When we started, it was a learning curve, as players like Daryl Cuff and Ben Horgan were playing U18, but credit to our coach, he has got the best out of all the squad.

“We had played Ballincollig earlier in the season and although they beat us by three points, I think we had improved considerably since that loss and it was a case of showing up and giving our best effort on the day.”

Tonight’s opponents are rated the best team in the country, but O’Leary is not fazed by their size.

“The bottom line is that UCD Marian have thrashed all before them in Dublin and also in this championship, but when you have nothing to lose, I think the pressure drops and all we can so I give it our best shot.

“No matter what the result is, we will have another season to achieve our goal and let’s hope we can play to our best on the biggest stage of all.”

TRADITION

Demons are steeped in tradition and although their withdrawal from the Super League in 2019 sent shockwaves through the basketball fraternity, Jack believes the good times may be around the corner.

“Getting two teams to the cup finals is a major achievement and, hopefully, we can bring some silverware back to Cork, as the buzz is certainly back in our club.”

His international career is interesting as he made the last 15 of the Irish U15 team, but was omitted from the final squad by coach, Pat Price.

However, O’Leary’s determination saw him chosen by coach Paul Kelleher at U18 level, with the pandemic halting the European championships before they played in a European league series.

This season, O’Leary opted out of the international set-up at U20 level.

I am underage again next season, so I dropped out this year, as I had a few injury problems, but, right now, it’s all about concentrating on my club basketball.”

The O’Leary name has been associated with Blue Demons for many years and father, David, and mother, Christine, have been there for Jack in his young career, along with young brother Adam (11) and sister Lucy (13). It could be a great weekend for Jack O’Leary as he bids to captain the club U20s to national glory, but win or lose, Blue Demons have unearthed a serious talent.

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