WHEN the great basketball players and coaches are mentioned in the history of the sport in Cork, Seanie Murphy is in the conversation.
Seanie began playing basketball with Iona, based at Blarney Street CBS, and back in the '60s things were a little different in the sport.
"I used to go down to the Christian Brothers' house and collect the one and only basketball between the whole school and club and then train on the outdoor court before returning it to the valuables in the lock-up."
Hiscareer moved up a gear in 1968 when he joined Blue Demons and now holds the distinction of being the only Irishman to captain, coach and manage the Irish Senior Men’s team.
In 1984 the Irish Basketball Association was quick to recognise his ability as a top-class coach, and he was duly appointed to coach the Irish Senior Men’s team for the pre-Olympic tournament in France of that year.
"I will never forget that tournament as we were drawn against a Russian team who had three guys who were 7' 2", one was 7' 1" and the fifth starter was close to 6' 10" and in truth, we struggled to get the ball over the halfway line."
He holds the distinction of being the only Irishman ever to captain, coach and manage an Irish senior men’s team.
During his long career, Murphy played with and against the best players that this country has produced over the past 60 years and he firmly believes the American influx of players in the '80s did the game the world of good.
He makes the case that Demons star Jasper McElroy was the greatest American player ever to play in this country.
“Jasper was another class, and you can talk about many great Americans, but McElroy did it on a weekly basis and when you look at the present standard of Americans you tend to think the '80s was a far better era."
Murphy continues to hold a nursery for future stars of Blue Demons every Sunday morning at the Mardyke Arena and over many years many players have been produced from his excellent tutoring.
Kids as young as six and seven learn the basic basketball skills under the watchful eye of Murphy and over the decades he has produced a host of stars for the Blue Demons senior teams with Shane Coughlan heading an impressive list.
Coaching future stars is something that gives him huge pleasure, but societal pressures are taking their toll on the sport as the number of players that make it to play at the top level from underage has taken a dip.
“The biggest problem for all clubs in this country is the way we live in an affluent society as you coach the youngsters up to the age of 18 and then the dropout syndrome sets in and we can do nothing to prevent this trend."
As for the modern game itself?
“I loved the inside game with the art of rebounding and defence thrown in but nowadays we don’t see that side of the game."
Parents nowadays have a role to play in the development of their children.
“We are living in different times and parents have the job to get their kids to training and academy sessions and that’s important too. With the shortage of coaches many of them get involved in that department and again that’s down to the world we live in."
In recent years, he has taken a huge interest in his grandson Jamie and although he has chosen soccer as his number one sport, he believes in giving him all the encouragement he can.
"Jamie was down at the academy from a young age, but he openly admitted that he preferred soccer and that’s okay too as I also loved soccer, ironically with St Mary’s the same club as my grandson.
“At this present time Jamie is playing with Cork in the Kennedy Cup and is also on the Irish panel so I am delighted he’s progressing in the right direction."
On a final note, He was recently inducted into the Cork Basketball Hall of Fame.
“Always nice to be appreciated by your peers and for me what I done in basketball over the years has been a labour of love.”