JIM O'DONOGHUE reaches an amazing milestone this year when he will celebrate his 75th year as a member of the Neptune Basketball Club.
Jim or (Jim Skin) as he is fondly know to everyone in basketball circles in Cork and around the country, was there as a ball boy with the very first Neptune team.
He followed his late brothers Donal and Leo to the famous Northside Club in 1947 as a young nine year-old boy.
Jim has filled every role with his beloved club over the 75 years of its existence, starting off as a ball boy for five years, Club Secretary for sixteen years, Club President, Club Coach at all levels, Club Captain, Hall of Fame award winner, and even wrote a book ( Gods by the Lee) last year about his great memories with his club.
Jim grew up on William O’Brien Street witch is only a stones throw away from the Neptune Stadium, with with his parents Dan and Bridy and his siblings Donal (RIP), Leo (RIP), Tim, Breda, Patricia and Dymphna (RIP).
Behind every good man there’s always a better woman.
Jim married the love of his life Monica Murphy in 1966 and she has always being by his side through thick and thin.
They were blessed with four children, daughters Niamh, Lean, Aoife and son Cormac.
“I was there from the very start with my late brothers Donal and Leo in 1947, when they formed a team from the local area,” Jim recalls.
“All basketball games were played at Collins Barracks, the Navel Base at Haulbowline and Rockgrove, the FCA Headquarters in Cork.
”I played my first game with the club in 1952 in the very first underage game at U18 level.
"I went on to play 56 Senior games and over 100 games for the club over the years.
”One of my fondest memories when I was playing was when we played Bantry in a Senior Cup game at the Parochial Hall in the late sixties.
"At the time there was no referee’s body so a player from another team volunteered to referee the game.
"To put it mildly the game wasn’t going well for us as four of our best players all fouled out and they were very agitated on the line.
"The electricity was run from a main generator at the back of the stage and was under lock and key.
"With a few minutes remaining in the game the hall went into complete darkness to everybody’s amazement.
"When the players went to the main generator the the lever was turned off and the box back was under lock and key again."
Game Abandoned, and when Jim was quizzed about how the power was turned off, his reply was “the culprit was never caught,” with a cheeky smile.”
Jim served as a officer with the Cork Country Board for many years were he filled the roles as Secretary, Fixture Secretary.
He also coached many Cork teams and led them to two All-Ireland titles.
“I coached at every level with the Club from National League to the underage academy.
"I had the pleasure to coach and watch some wonderful players with the club over the years with likes of Tom Crowley, Tom Wilkinson, Tom O’Sullivan, Pat Quirke, John ( Dinnybobs) McCarthy, Stephen McCarthy and Roy Downey just to mention a few.
"We had some superb American players during my time at the club with Terry Strickland, Ray Smith, Bob Stevens, Lennie McMillan, Mike Pyatt and Pete Strickland coming to mind.
"I also witnessed many highs and lows through my time with the club, but one of the most memorable games for me was when we played Austrian side Klostormeuburg of Vienna in an European Cup game in 1985.
"They had four professional Americans players on their team and we lost the home game by 15 points.
"Four days later in Vienna for the return leg, we clawed back the 15 point deficit to a mere basket.
"Then Terry drove to the basket to level the tie with 20 seconds remaining but his shot rimmed out and Klostormeuburg scored on the fast break to win by four points.
"I had so much mixed emotions, disappointing that we lost, however, very proud with the players with their efforts on the European stage,” Jim added.
O’Donoughue was also a prominent basketball referee and started in 1953 and only retired five years ago at the age of 79.
Jim maintains he retired when his hearing was giving him trouble but insisted that his eyesight was perfect, however, there would be plenty of coaches and players would differ with that option.
The word legend is used too frequently these days, however, I don’t think I would be out of place calling Jim O’Donoghue a true Basketball Legend for what he given to the sport and his beloved Neptune.