BRENDAN McCOY is one of the county’s best-known basketball coaches. He had charge of National League team, the Dundalk-based Team Tivoli, back in the 1980s, and is now head of coaching at the progressive Liby Dynamites club, playing out of St Joseph’s GAA centre in Dromiskin.
How popular is basketball in Louth?
There are three clubs, Drogheda Bullets, Drogheda Ladies and Liby Dynamites, and between them they have around 600 players. A fantastic school system is providing endless talent to these clubs and with a great refereeing association, NERA, the game is well structured for future development.
How has the game evolved?
This structure has changed slightly from when I started coaching. Throughout the 1980s and 90s, development was from the top to the bottom, with the emphasis on National League and American players etc. Now it’s from the bottom up, and a pathway has developed leaving nobody behind. Schools, clubs and colleges all come under the same umbrella and the management is excellent.
Is there an active association in Louth?
No, but there is a regional development committee, the North East Basketball League, which organises all competitions. All clubs are affiliated to this association.
Where is the game at its strongest in this county?
The club scene goes hand in hand with the schools. For instance, St Vincent’s and St Louis girls’ schools in Dundalk play against each other in the National School League, and then join Liby Dynamites for club games. DkIT play in the colleges leagues.
Are coaches provided for schools if there’s no-one on the staff keen to promote the game?
My own club, Liby Dynamites have seven coaches available and they can assist any school, if required.
What is government funding like for the game?
Women In Sports grants are available, but most funding is gathered from sponsorship and membership fees. Basketball Ireland support the regions with funding for courses, etc.
Are you happy with the media’s coverage?
The Louth local media is magnificent, covering so many sports. It’s wonderful to see so many reports of games and photographs promoting sport in our county, and basketball doesn’t miss out. Nationally, TV is now playing a bigger role in promoting the game.
Who’s the best home-grown player the county has produced?
There have been so many, Brendan Rogers, Eugene McManus,
Joseph McConnon, Johnny Faughey, Pat Coburn, Noel Mullen, Angela Scully, Lisa McCoy, Linda Crowe and Orla Brennan, to mention just some. If I was to pick one it would have to be Brendan Rogers, who won the MVP of Ireland. He was a a great player.
What’s your own involvement?
Presently, I am Head Coach of Liby Dynamites and assist seven other coaches in the club with the development of the game in the Louth region. I am also Chairman of the NEBL.
Where are you based?
St Joseph’s GAA centre, in Dromiskin. Anyone interested in getting involved should come along to see us.
Success for us is, week after week, players arriving for coaching, playing together, and travelling to and from games making new friends. There’s also travel to foreign shores to compete. Although in existence for only three years, our U18 ladies have won the NEBL title, the Santa Susanna Cup in Spain and lost by one point to the eventual winners in the Barcelona Cup. Five of our players have represented the region at U15 level, so you could say we are a work in progress.
Tell us about Team Tivoli?
The Dundalk-based Team Tivoli was the first to represent the area in the National League, and were also the first team in the region to win the All Ireland Intermediate title. Ed Randolph, from Florida, was the club’s first professional. In his time here Ed assisted in the development of the game in Louth. I was coach with Team Tivoli and other teams I coached were, Windmill Warriors, Pa’s Allstars, Dundalk Ravens, Four Lanterns and Mosney Drogheda.
You had other Americans involved?
Most of the Americans playing in this country were college players, or those who missed the pick for NBA teams. Randolph was a college player, and Kelvin Troy missed the pick and ended up playing in Ireland. Mario Elie played in Ireland, but went back to the NBA to win three world champion rings. We have been privileged to have had some great players in Ireland
Randolph was 6ft-plus - is height a prime requisite?
Height can be compensated by jump. Spud Webb, for instance, was just 5’5” yet he won the NBA dunking competition against guys who were more than a foot taller.This was a great achievement when you take into account the ring is 10’ off the ground.
Have you ever seen the Harlem Globetrotters in live action?
I saw them play in Belfast - a really funny bunch.
What about the Olympics - have you been there?
No, but hope to go to Brazil in 2016, after I retire from the Fire Service next year.
The greatest-ever player?
Magic Ervin Johnston, Larry Bird, Kareem Abdual Jabbar – all greats. But for me, Michael Jordan, of Chicago Bulls, known as ‘His Airness’ stands as the greatest of all time.
Ever see him play?
Only on TV. But I have been to games in the Chicago Bulls’ Arena and Madison Square Garden in New York. I met Shaquille O’Neal, Pat Reilly, coach to New York Nicks, and John Stockton, of Utah Jazz.
Does basketball complement Gaelic football, and vice versa?
Basketball’s skills of jumping, catching, passing and movement can only benefit a Gaelic footballer. Basketball could be called a sister sport for its movement, or high altitude wrestling, as I like to call it. I believe involvement in the other game, would also open minds to a new expression of ideas and skills.
Any interest in other sports?
I played soccer and GAA and have a love of all sports, but find myself pulling towards rugby as my favourite to watch.
Are you a filmgoer?
Don’t get the time to sit down.
Not even for films based on basketball?
I’ve seen White Men Can’t Jump and Coach Carter, but I’m not a regular cinema goer.
What about books?
John Wooden’s The Pyramid of Success is a must for anyone interested in coaching.
Your hopes for the game at national and local levels?
My hopes would be for a Super League team from Dundalk, with crowds such as those that supported Team Tivoli turning up. I’m hugely enthusiastic about the future with Liby Dynamites, a magnificent club with some of the most talented players in this country, coached by a dedicated team and supported by parents and a fabulous committee.