‘The Duke’ on Basketball President’s Lifetime Achievement Awards List

Where it all began: Donal ‘Duke’ O’Connor pictured in the old St. Mary’s Parish Hall Yard from where basketball in Castleisland really took hold of the town’s sporting culture and found its niche. ©Photograph: John Reidy

Recognition for ‘fantastic work’ in the field of basketball in Ireland has been given a brand new badge of honour under the heading of Basketball Ireland President’s Lifetime Achievement Awards.

And guess what ! Castleisland man, Donal ‘Duke’ O’Connor is among the 2019 and first recipients of the awards.

This is the inaugural year of the awards, and it will see all recipients honoured at the 2019 Basketball Ireland annual awards ceremony at Croke Park on May 11th.

Fantastic Work

The awards are in recognition of the fantastic work being done by members of the basketball community around Ireland, and the nominating committee had an extremely tough task in selecting this year’s winners.

The names revealed were: Andrew Drumm, Donal ‘Duke’ O’Connor, Joe Byrne (RIP) and Joey Boylan.

The Basketball Ireland citation for Donal ‘Duke’ O’Connor reads as follows.

“Ask anyone in the basketball community to think of Christmas and only one thing springs to mind – the St Mary’s Castleisland blitz.

In 1970, Donal O’Connor approached a group of friends with the idea of a basketball blitz to brighten up the days after the Christmas holiday.

He went on to convince the owner of the local dance hall to allow them to put in basketball rings by day, and that first year, the event was a roaring success – with games over two days, with 12 teams, 18 games, 10 hours of basketball and 350 people in attendance.

In 1976, the blitz moved to the newly built Community Centre.

By 1988, the blitz had become so big that a second venue was added. Now, in the present day, the blitz runs in two venues over five days with the 2018 blitz seeing 164 games, 22 competitions, 93 hours of basketball and a record-breaking 13,000 people in attendance.

2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of the blitz and Donal O’Connor is still at the helm, driving the event forward.”

In the run-in to the Christmas 2017 Basketball Blitz, Mikie ‘The Legend’ O’Connor wrote an insider’s view of his life-long friend, Gaelic football and basketball team-mate and it appeared on The Maine Valley Post on Christmas Eve.

You can read it with a click on the link here:


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