THE late Donal O’Donoghue left a huge legacy that will never be forgotten in Cork and Irish basketball when he passed away.
Neither should it be forgotten.
He was a one of the founder members of the Northside club Neptune, the Cork County Basketball Board, the Munster Basketball Association, and also spent numerous years as a member of the Irish Basketball Association.
In the early 1950s and 60s, along with the late Commandant Micheal Heffernan, they would travel the country to encourage and give guidance all young people to play the game he loved and was so passionate about.
One of Donal’s strengths was was his vision of how the game could expand. However, he was always encouraging young players and coaches to express themselves on and off the court no matter what club they played for, he just enjoyed watching young people to enjoy and express themselves.
Later this year, Donal, along with his younger brother Jim, will be inducted into the Cork Men’s Country Board Hall of Fame, an honour that is well deserved.
The Neptune Basketball Club was founded in 1947 and for one of their founders Donal O’Donoghue, it all started off in his family’s backyard in Barry’s Place, off Cathedral Road.
They then moved their practise to Micheal Finn’s backyard, because it was a bigger area. And with more young lads that lived in the local area wanted to play it made perfect sense.
Donal’s younger brother Jim recalls some fascinating memories about his early years.
“I was only a very young boy when the club was formed and fondly remember when the lads trained in my family’s backyard in Barry’s Place. We had a makeshift basket fixed to the wall over our back door with two windows in close proximity, so you can imagine there were many panes of glass had to be replaced.
“It soon got the intention of the young lads living in the area and they would look over the fence to watch the older boys playing.
“The one disadvantage was training would come to a complete halt, when my mother would open the door with her washing basket to hang out our clothes on the line, or my father would come out to get a pack of coal for the fire.
“Our first set of gear was made up by my sister Breda and she also got the job of washing the gear after games,” Jim recalls with a big grin on his face.
One of Donal’s favourite sayings was 'If you want a job done right, ask a busy man...' and how right was he was.
"Donal was our first coach with my other brothers the late Leo and Tim along with Jack Higgins who subsequently would become the Cork City Manager, and he was a great help with getting the land to build the Stadium many years later.
"So many of the families in the local area, which included the Finns, O’Connells, Walshs, O’Sullivans, Luceys, Healys, Goulds, Higgins, Haynes and Fordes got involved because they spectators behind the fence in Finn’s back yard.
"Those young lads would soon become our first minor team with Jim and Liam O’Connell, Mick Finn, Dave O’Leary, John O’Sullivan, Liam McGinn and myself."
Donal went on to hold every position at Neptune at committee level and was club president up until the time of his death. He became the first chairman Cork County Basketball Board a position he held for many years before filling every position at board level.
He was a founder member of the Munster Basketball Association, and he ran the first referees and coaches courses in the university in the early 1950s. He also had a great eye for picking out young players who would become great administrators, with the likes of Dave Cody, Liam O’Riordan, Mick Finn, Pat Lucey, Tony O’Connell, Billy Kelly, Jim O’Connell and Noel Allen and many more, who all served Neptune over the last 75 years.
Donal, who had a very busy life at that time outside of basketball, was holding down a management job with the Lee Holesy and later went on to become self-employed as a salesman for different clothing firms. He also was married to Phil and had five children Hugh, Marie, Helen, Pauline and Deirdre who he adored.
He also wrote a weekly column on basketball for this paper for many years under the name The Rebounder.
I could write a book on Donal and his achievements in basketball. However, he will be always remembered for his great smile and many words of encouragement to so many basketball people.