Council Honours St. Mary’s Longevity, Success and Community Contribution

Castleisland / Corca Dhuibhne Municipal District Chairman Cllr. Breanndán Fitzgerald (centre left) presenting the civic reception scroll to St. Mary’s Basketball Club members: Ned O’Callaghan (left) and Donal ‘Duke’ O’Connor with Cllr. Bobby O’Connell at the civic reception for the club to mark the golden jubilee of the Christmas Blitz at the Castleisland Area Services Centre yesterday. Included are: John Pender, Eamonn Egan, Patricia O’Connor, Bríd and Síle Kenny, Tim Egan Cllr. Fionnán Fitzgerald, Aoife and Joan Nolan, John Begley, Tom Kenny, Kevin McCarthy, Séamus O’Connor, Ciaran Fleming, Bertie Hickey, Maurice Casey, Patricia Walsh, Michael John Kearney, Liz Galwey, Den Joe and Angela O’Connor, Paul Geaney, Cllr. Charlie Farrelly, Vincent Barry, James Lyons, Seán McCarthy, Hugh O’Connell, John Mitchell, Aidan McGaley, John Lyons, Denis Griffin, Johnny O’Connor, Brian O’Connor, Breda Mulryan, Liz O’Connor, John Breen, Joan McCarthy, Aisling Barrett, Billy Broderick, Eamon O’Connor, Reidín O’Loughlin, Mary Nolan. ©Photograph: John Reidy 15-1-2020

The highest civilian honour that can be bestowed in the county has been presented to St. Mary’s Basketball Club.

The club was honoured with a Civic Reception at Wednesday’s Castleisland-Corca Dhuibhne Municipal District meeting.

Kerry County Council acknowledged the club’s remarkable achievement in holding its 50th annual Christmas Basketball Blitz last month.

Over 40 Attended

Over 40 people, including committee members past and present, sponsors, the captains from the very first event and volunteers, attended the event which took place in the Castleisland Area Services Centre.

Cathaoirleach of the Castleisland-Corca Dhuibhne MD Cllr. Breandán Fitzgerald praised everyone involved in the club for their ‘outstanding contribution to the community.’

He noted the significant interest the competition has garnered since its inception and how it has grown throughout the years.

Cllr. O’Connell Nominated

Fine Gael councillor Bobby O’Connell nominated the club for the honour – and the impact the tournament has had on him, and on the wider community over the years, was evident throughout his emotional speech.

“It is a privilege and honour to bestow this on the basketball club. What the club did for us as kids can’t be put into words. It galvanized the whole community,” Cllr O’Connell said.

National Coverage for the Area

“The club is the most successful in Ireland, there’s no competition in any sporting organisation in Ireland as successful as the Christmas Blitz. It has come such a long way and it gets national coverage for the area,” he continued.

Councillor O’Connell, who played in the tournament in 1971, praised founding member and current tournament director Donal Duke O’Connor.

More Than a Sporting Event

Before the accolade was presented, John Breen, municipal district manager, praised the club for the social and economic contribution the blitz has made to the wider community.

Mr Breen said it was ‘more than just a sporting event.’

Receiving this civic reception was a huge honour for the basketball club, with St Mary’s PRO Liz Galwey saying they were ‘humbled and delighted’ and adding “it’s a huge honour to be acknowledged in your own town.”

The Driving Force

She also acknowledged Donal Duke O’Connor stating he is the driving force behind the hugely successful tournament.

Duke was joined by fellow founding member Ned O’Callaghan and current chairperson of St Mary’s BC Eamon Egan to accept the honour.

As for the man at the centre of the unique event, Donal O’Connor said that it was never the aim of the blitz committee to invite or put themselves in the way of honours like this – ‘but they do come and of course they’re welcome when they do,’ he said.

Community Reflection

“We’re very grateful to Kerry County Council for the honour we received here today and we look on it as a great reflection of the community in general.

“Events like this help enormously with the promotion for the blitz and from it we hope it will continue well into the future,” said Donal.

Thank You from St. Mary’s

Chairman Eamon Egan and the entire committee of St. Mary’s Basketball Club would like to sincerely thank those people who helped to ensure the success of the 50th annual Christmas Blitz.

They send their thanks to sponsors, volunteers, players, coaches, table officials, referees and all who attended over the five days.