Cork basketball secretary Willie McCarthy on his love of the sport and its growth this season

An increase of 49 teams reflects the current interest in hoops but puts pressure on the board to deliver games for all
Cork basketball secretary Willie McCarthy on his love of the sport and its growth this season

Kieran Lynam and Jason Bowen of Right Price Tiles and Wood Flooring with Willie McCarthy and John Kelly of the Cork County Basketball Board

WHEN you are secretary of any sporting organisation or County Board, your work ethic must be diligent and professional and for Willie McCarthy who holds the position in the Cork Basketball Board it’s a voluntary position he enjoys very much.

Willie took up the position in 2020 when the late Billy Coffey sadly passed away after 40 years in the helm and with the help of his fellow officers, he has managed to keep the ship afloat.

McCarthy is steeped in the sport having started with Iona before moving GH 74 in Gurranabraher and then a short trip down to road to Blue Demons.

“Sport can actually go a full circle as my first coach in Iona was Larry Murphy and 40 years later, I coached his son Ryan at Blue Demons,” said Willie.

The 1971 Ascension Parish Community Games team the won the gold medal: Back: Paddy O’Reagan (RIP), Donal Goulding, Joe Hoare, Paul Dunne, Robert Dalton, Martin Ahern ( RIP), John O’Connell (RIP), Coach John O’Leary. Front: Mascot, Peter White, Willie McCarthy, Aaron O’Connell, Kieran Fitzgerald, John Dinnybobs McCarthy (RIP), Kevin Ahern.
The 1971 Ascension Parish Community Games team the won the gold medal: Back: Paddy O’Reagan (RIP), Donal Goulding, Joe Hoare, Paul Dunne, Robert Dalton, Martin Ahern ( RIP), John O’Connell (RIP), Coach John O’Leary. Front: Mascot, Peter White, Willie McCarthy, Aaron O’Connell, Kieran Fitzgerald, John Dinnybobs McCarthy (RIP), Kevin Ahern.

Administration has always been part of McCarthy’s life as at the age of 18 he was co-opted onto the Blue Demons committee and he learned his trade at the Sunday’s Well club.

“When I look back at my time in Demons my proudest contribution was helping the club get back playing in the National League in the late '80s as we would have lost some serious players that were coming through.”

GOLDEN

When Willie looks back on the golden era of basketball during the '80s, he fondly remembers witnessing some magical American players that graced many courts in Ireland.

“Look the bottom line is that they were no Americans playing in eastern Europe and with few European leagues if a player didn’t make the NBA in America there was a wonderful surplus of players available. Irish clubs were in a position that they could pick from the best 500 players coming out of college in the States and I can look back to one season at the Super League level where we had 10 players with clubs who had been drafted and that was some achievement.”

A change of direction certainly hampered the quality of Americans coming into the country according to McCarthy.

“In the early '90s eastern Europe opened up and Americans had far better opportunities of making better money in a lot of countries and that’s we are today because it’s a lottery now of what standard your American will be when he lands in Ireland.”

Remember there was no internet or social media in Ireland during the golden era as clubs relied on magazines and word of mouth to sign Americans.

“If Demons were interested in Americans, we would get the numbers of opposition coaches whose teams played against them and to be honest we always got honest information.”

Willie had an honest assessment when speaking about the present Irish players competing in the Super League.

“In comparison to the '80s the players are training better and eating better and although we had great Americans in the '80s there were Irish players capable of splitting them with double figures.

“In my book, it’s very hard to compare basketball that was played 40 years ago to the present day but for me, I do know there were some excellent players back in the day.”

The recent debate about Irish players' involvement at the top level was an interesting one for the Cork secretary.

“I think when you look at Neptune who for four years dominated Irish basketball at U18 and U20 levels and for all the players that went to the States how many of them are presently playing with the club?”

Willie McCarthy (centre) secretary of the Cork County Basketball board with volunteers John Kelly, Jim O'Sullivan, Denis O'Gorman and Jason Thornton.
Willie McCarthy (centre) secretary of the Cork County Basketball board with volunteers John Kelly, Jim O'Sullivan, Denis O'Gorman and Jason Thornton.

The Cork chief is adamant they will continue to promote the sport at all levels with Francis O’Sullivan the present chairman Brian Ginn in the treasurer's role and John Kelly as registrar.

Jim O’Sullivan and Denis O’Gorman also work hard as the number of teams competing this season has increased.

“The teams competing have went from 112 to 171 this season and that’s a huge burden for any administrator. 

Last season I took 14,000 mails and calls over a season and remember I am in a voluntary position.”

The love that Willie has for the game is incredible and he also spoke highly about the new CEO of Basketball Ireland John Feehan.

“I have yet to meet the man, but I speak to him on a regular basis and he has the game at heart with some refreshing ideas that can only be good for the sport.

“As a board, we will continue to lead with promoting tournaments in all grades as the sport is all about players and nothing beats competition that Cork gives the rest of this country on a regular basis.”

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