SATURDAY was a great day for Cork Basketball with two of its greatest ever players inducted into the Basketball Ireland Hall of Fame and current players and coaches receiving the end of year awards at a gala function at the Royal Marine Hotel in Dun Laoghaire.
Tom Wilkinson and Caroline Forde were deservingly inducted into the Basketball Ireland Hall of Fame.
Tom Wilkinson, had a decorated career with Neptune and Blue Demons that saw him win eight Super League titles and three National Cups, as well as representing Ireland over 100 times.
No one has more National (Super) League medals to their name than ‘Wilky’, who finished with eight, a tally only equalled by his long-time Neptune teammate Tom O’Sullivan.
Indeed from 1980-81 to 1990-91, there were only three seasons that concluded without Wilkinson being a National League champion.
Wilkinson also won three National Cups (1985, 1988 and 1990, all with Neptune), as well as five old National Top Four Championships, two of which he won with Blue Demons, a club he captained to the league and Top Four double in 1980-81, before transferring back to his first love, Neptune, who he would help transform into the most dominant team the domestic men’s league has ever known.
Wilkinson excelled in international competition too. In one of the greatest-ever international achievements by an Irish club side, he scored a team-high 20 points for Burgerland Neptune in their historic 1982 Roy Curtis international tournament final win over the famed Murray International Metals, from Scotland.
Renowned for his mental toughness, leadership and terrific outside shooting, Wilkinson played more than 100 times for Ireland between 1976 and 1988, captaining the side for the last three of those seasons.
Upon retiring in 1991 after another league and Top Four double, Wilkinson served as Neptune club treasurer for a number of years before coaching the club to another Super League title in 1997.
He also coached multiple teams in Douglas National School, where he taught for decades before recently retiring, and Douglas Community School, helping popularise the sport on the southside of Cork city.
“It’s a great honour and privilege to be inducted into Basketball Ireland Hall of Fame and join an elite group of previous inductees, along with my fellow nominees this year. I dedicate this to my wife Kay and family who encouraged me to play as long as I did. I’d like to thank all my former coaches and teammates, who helped me achieve many successes in the sport.
"Special thanks to Denis Wallace and Neptune BC, who nominated me for this award," Wilkinson said.
Caroline Forde also entered into the Hall of Fame. She represented Ireland over 100 times, and is a multiple Super League and and National Cup winner with Blarney, Lee Strand Tralee and Waterford Wildcats, including MVP performances in the 1987 and 1993 National Cup finals, while playing for Blarney and Tralee respectively.
Forde is one of the greatest backcourt players Irish basketball has ever produced, starring both in the national league and for the national team.
Playing alongside her sisters Miriam and Annette (both RIP), she was the catalyst for their home club Blarney becoming a powerhouse on the national stage, winning the 1985 U19 National Cup (when she scored 30 points) and then at senior level, three National Leagues (1989-91), two National Cups (1987 and 1991) and two old Top Four National Championships (1989 and 1991).
She also went on to be instrumental in the success of two other teams, winning a Super League, Cup and Top Four with Lee Strand Tralee and then helping Waterford Wildcats to a Super League title in 1996 before finishing her playing career back with Blarney.
As well as being a fantastic playmaker and team player, she was a phenomenal scorer, both from the outside and through driving to the basket, setting all kinds of individual records.
The 41 points she scored in the 1991 Top Four final overtime win over Wildcats remains the highest score by a player in a premier senior women’s national final.
She was twice Cup final MVP (scoring 29 points in Blarney’s 1987 triumph and 22 for Tralee in a two-point win over Naomh Mhuire in the 1993 decider).
She also excelled for Ireland, playing over 100 times for her country, and starring in such campaigns as the 1988 Olympic qualifiers in Malaysia when she averaged 16 points a game against the likes of Canada and Italy.
“I'm delighted and honoured, and at the same time humbled as well to be recognised by the basketball community for my achievements on the basketball court, and to be inducted into the Basketball Ireland Hall of Fame, with fellow player inductees Michelle Aspell, who was a teammate of mine in Waterford, and fellow Corkonian Tom Wilkinson," Caroline Forde said.
"It's great to be joining distinguished players such as Siobhan Caffrey, and Susan Moran in receiving this award.
"It’s a real honour and privilege for me to receive this award and to also happily remember my two beautiful sisters Miriam and Annette Forde gone too soon, who played with me for a large amount of my career, and my parents Mary and Joe who encouraged us all.”
Other Cork clubs and players who were honoured at the end of the season player and coach of the year awards were The Address UCC Glanmire, who won the MissQuote.ie Super League, InsureMyHouse.ie Paudie O’Connor Cup and MissQuote.ie Champions Trophy, that saw Claire Melia named ‘MissQuote.ie Super League Player of the Year’ and Mark Scannell awarded ‘MissQuote.ie Super League Coach of the Year’.
C&S Neptune’s Cian Heaphy rounded a fine season, in which he made his senior international debut, by claiming the ‘InsureMyVan.ie Super League Young Player of the Year.’
UCC Demons, who were promoted to the InsureMyVan.ie Super League and won the InsureMyHouse.ie Presidents’ National Cup, got their hands on three awards.
Daniel O’Mahony was named ‘InsureMyVan.ie Division 1 Coach of the Year, while Tobias Christiansen was chosen as ‘InsureMyVan.ie Division 1 Player of the Year’ and Tala Fam Thiam as the ‘InsureMyVan.ie Division 1 Player of the Year’.