TWO Limerick basketball teams who each achieved a remarkable double winning both the National Cup and SuperLeague titles have been named the Limerick Persons of the Month.
Back in February both the UL Eagles and the UL Ladies senior sides claimed a National Cup double while in March both teams claimed the SuperLeague titles.
“It was a super achievement, there was a lot of hard work put in,” said Phil Deegan, manager of the ladies side who is also chairperson of the UL Basketball Club.
“We had gone on a winning streak of 39 games unbeaten since December 2010. We would have been knocked out early in the cup last year so to have gone through to the cup final and win it in the manner we did – we beat DCU by I think it was 37 points and would have been arch rivals as well.
“Then to do the double - to complete it with the league was just great,” she added.
According to John King, manager of the UL Eagles, for his side to complete the double in the same year as the ladies “was an unbelievable achievement.”
“I think it is fantastic for basketball development in Limerick. It is a great opportunity for the game to be seen with the two teams in the two finals and winning both finals,” he said.
The triumphs in the National Arena in Tallaght he said would be a great incentive for younger players coming through the ranks.
“The children who are playing basketball can see that there is an opportunity to compete at the highest level. We would be hoping that it would be a way of getting more people involved in playing basketball and even getting more people going to games, helping out, volunteering.
“And it’s great to put Limerick at the top of the pile on the sports map,” he said.
For Ms Deegan who has been manger of the ladies side for nearly 15 years, the victories were justly deserved after all the hard work.
“It’s a huge commitment – there is a huge amount of work put in. It is a big commitment from all teams.
“There is discipline required with food and drink and a training regime. There are sacrifices made by all of them, their social life suffers,” she said.
“We would train three nights a week, Monday, Wednesday and Friday and then there are games at the weekend – that is formal team training but the lads would train themselves at least once if not twice more as well,” John added.
The majority of the players on the ladies team, Ms Deegan said either live, study or work in Limerick.
“You don’t have to be in college in UL to play on either of the teams. Most of our players are based in Limerick with the exception of three travelling from Cork. One of them is actually on the Great Britain Olympic Basketball panel at the moment, hoping to be in the Olympics this year, Rachael Vanderwal,” she explained.
Phil and John said that the double was for both of them the highlight of their basketball careers “no question”.
This is John’s 10th season as manger and he is also chairman of the Eagles Club.
“You see a lot of games in those 10 years, I would say I must have seen 300 games – home and away,” said John.
Both managers acknowledged the support of UL Arena and the commitment they have made to the teams.
“The UL Arena Executive and the University of Limerick are a sponsor of the men’s team and to be honest there would be no men’s team without them.
“We would like to thank the players, the coaches, and the committees on both sides and of course the families and supporters for their support,” he said.
The Limerick Person of the Month is jointly sponsored by the Limerick Leader, the Clarion Hotel and Southern.