By Mairéad Breen
AS the rain poured down outside on a grey Graiguecullen morning, six teams donned their area colours in St Fiacc’s Hall for the U11 mixed basketball Community Games final.
This is always a highlight of the winter calendar as it is the only basketball competition where the teams are mixed with five girls and five boys on each squad. At least two boys and two girls must be on court at any one time and the excitement is always palpable.
In the first match of the day Slaney Valley’s team of Elizabeth Callaghan, Matthew Kearney O’Brien, Holly Power, Zoe Austin, Cathal Tracey, Oisin Caulfield, Keeley O’Donnell, Adam Cox, Sean Byrne and Ava Byrne met the Askea team of Jack Mahon, TJ Brennan, Peter Lynch, Joe Dermody, Cormac Murphy, Amy Gray, Paige Challoner, Róisin Brennan, Sarah Whelan and Síofra Harvey. Slaney Valley dominated this game and came out on top.
The second match was between Graiguecullen and St Lazerian’s. St Lazerian’s were county champions in this age category last year and once again they didn’t disappoint. They came through on baskets and earned themselves a place in the semi-final. St Lazerian’s team was Cian O’Reilly, Joey Drea, Fionn Forde, Eimear O’Toole, Alice Maher, Kate Comerford, Niamh Brennan, Finnán Nolan, Daniel Brennan and Ada Bambrick.
Slaney Valley’s semi-final opponents were Rathvilly who entered the competition at this stage on a bye. Rathvilly’s team was Peter Lawlor, Laoch Leonard, Aoife O’Sullivan, Roisin Corcoran, Kirstan Doyle, Alannah McCarthy, Vena Doyle, Killian McFarland and Ultan O’Leary. With one game already behind them and the wind in their sails, the Slaney Valley side proved once again to be the dominant force.
In the second semi-final St Lazerian’s met the fresh Bennekerry/Tinryland side. B/T were dressed to impress with new kits kindly presented before the match by Councillor Fergal Browne. The new gear wasn’t enough however as the Bennekerry/Tinryland side was outplayed by a more polished St Lazerian’s team.
So then to the final game of the morning. And wow what a finale to the mixed U11 event. It was basket for basket all the way in the last match with both Slaney Valley and St Lazerian’s tied on 12 points apiece into the last minute of the game.
Slaney Valley’s Matthew O’Brien got into a good position for a final shot and as the clock ran down to zero everyone held their breaths and watched through their fingers as the ball fell through the hoop, sealing the deal for Slaney Valley on the day. Rapturous applause resounded throughout the hall in appreciation of both of these teams.
Credit as always to the community games committee, referees, table officials and management of St Fiacc’s Hall. And a debt of gratitude to the coaches, mentors, parents and children for another wonderful morning of basketball.