CORK basketballer Garreth Blount has lost his battle with cancer.
Blount was a hugely popular and active member of the Irish basketball community and only last weekend was in Dublin as a member of the Glanmire management team who were beaten in the Intermediate Cup final at Tallaght.
The 22-year-old, who was an underage star with Ballincollig, is the younger brother of Neptune ace Jordan and son of the late Gary, who coached and reffed until his passing in 2020.
Last November the Blount family started a fundraising campaign to prolong Garreth's life through chemotherapy paired with immunotherapy.
Garreth, a classy player and fine three-point shooter on the court, was an extremely bubbly character and an excellent coach with young players, regularly helping at camps locally and abroad.
Basketball Ireland confirmed his passing on Friday morning: "Everyone at Basketball Ireland would like to extend our deepest condolences to Jordan and the Blount family on the passing of Garreth Blount. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."
He grew up in Mayfield and the Glen with his whole family immersed in hoops.
On his Go Fund Me page, his family explained his resiliency: "Garreth was born five months premature and spent an extensive amount of time in an incubator. Doctors told our mother that he wouldn’t make it through and we should leave it at that but we chose to fight, the same way he did and he went on to live and surpass all doctors' recommendations and expectations."
Starting out with Neptune, Garreth then switched to Ballincollig in his teens, where his younger brother Colm currently plays, and put in huge hours honing his game. He was a key member of the squad when they collected two National Cups and always excelled on his school teams during his time at St Aidan's.
Coach at Ballincollig Basketball Club and dear friend of Garreth’s, Kieran O’Sullivan, said Garreth’s love of basketball always “shone through”.
"He was a marvellous kid,” he told.
During his time with the club, Garreth helped Ballincollig win two National Cups.
Off the court, he said Garreth was a “gregarious character” who always had a “mischievous smile” on his face. He will be “dearly missed” by everyone at Ballincollig Basketball Club.
Cork City Councillor Mick Nugent said he was sad to hear of the passing of Garreth Blount and offered his condolences to Garreth’s loved ones.
“His loss will also be felt among the basketball community in Cork and you can see the outpouring of sympathies being expressed by the various clubs and people involved in basketball,” the Sinn Féin councillor added.
The Cork County Basketball Board messaged: "We would like to pass on our deepest sympathy to the family and friends of Gareth Blount who has sadly passed away. He was a prominent member of the Cork Basketball Community and will be greatly missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h'anam
His family wrote in November: "His infectious personality touched everybody wherever he went. Not only was he a great basketball player but he also committed himself to doing a lot of community work by coaching in local primary schools in Cork City, running mid-term and summer camps in less advantaged areas and volunteered in secondary and primary schools for many, many years before finally accepting a teaching position in Spain where this all then began."
Ballincollig will hold a minute's silence before Saturday's Super League game between Emporium Cork Basketball and Tralee Warriors rather than postponing the fixture, after consulting with his family. Neptune will also honour Garreth's memory at their home game on Saturday evening.
Reflecting on Garreth's long love of basketball and after speaking with his family, our Superleague Game tomorrow vs killorglin will go ahead as planned, We will mark Garreth's life and the huge impact he had on all of us with a minutes silence before the game.— Neptune basketball club (@Neptune1BC) January 27, 2023
RIP Garreth pic.twitter.com/ktmrpstwrg
Ballincollig posted on social media: "It is with great sadness and regret that we have learned that Garreth Blount passed away. On behalf of Ballincollig Basketball Club we extend our deepest condolences to Colm and the Blount family during this difficult time.
"A member of this club for many years Garreth competed and achieved success at the highest level here before moving away from Cork. Courageous throughout his illness he had this year found his way back to basketball coaching in Glanmire with his mentor Nicky [Bohane].
"Garreth was huge personality on the Irish basketball scene and will always be remembered and deeply missed by all who knew him. Please keep Garreth’s family in your thoughts and prayers. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis."
Teacher at Scoil Oilibhéir primary school in Ballyvolane, Eolan Ryng, said Garreth was “an extremely positive influence on any room he ever entered”.
“He had an infectious smile and left anyone he came in contact with in great form. His love of basketball was always evident, a love passed to him by his late father.
“Like his siblings, he was held in the highest esteem in Scoil Oilibhéir. My thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and clubmates."