The State of Play at St. Mary’s Basketball Club After Super League Opt Out

In Happier Times: St. Mary’s Basketball Ladies team coach, Liam Culloty plotting the course for his team during their division one National League game against Limerick Celtics at Castleisland Community Centre on a Friday night in early 2020.  ©Photograph: John Reidy 31-1-2020.
Coach Liam Culloty’s Tweet in response to the announcement of St. Mary’s Basketball Club opting out of the women’s Super League for the coming season. The tweet also prompted the statement included below from St. Mary’s.

“Unfortunately, we have had to respond to a statement released via Twitter, by Liam Culloty, the coach of our Super League ladies’ team, due to the inaccuracies it portrayed.

St. Mary’s Basketball Club is very supportive of our women’s teams, including our Super League ladies’ team and what they have achieved over the years.

The club fully supported the team during the division one term and in the promotion to Super League. St. Mary’s were proud to be back playing at the top level.

Players were, as they have always been by the club, looked after financially for any out-of-pocket expenses related to their travel to games.

A Local Team

Contrary to what is being portrayed by the statement on Twitter, St. Mary’s is a local club and not a county set up i.e. not a Kerry team.

It would appear from reading the statement that the coach had an ambition for this to be a Kerry set up, yet this was something that was never brought up for discussion with St.Mary’s club who were financing the team.

St. Mary’s ambition is to provide an outlet for its girls and boys of all ages to play basketball and where possible, to play at the highest level.

Limited Number of Players

In recent years we have had a limited number of players come through from under age level. The decision to opt out of Super League was not taken without considerable consideration. The team coach was aware that the club were under pressure to give the Women’s Board an answer prior to a meeting on 13/06/22.

We are a club team, our first loyalties are to our club and club members, while we are, and always have been in the past, happy to welcome link players in, at no time during recent discussions had any individual player from any part of the county expressed to the club an interest to link or indeed transfer for next season. Conversations had been had with the coach regarding player numbers, the opportunity to recruit has been there since the end of the 21/22 season.

Phone Call and Text

A phone call to the coach to inform him of the decision that had been made not to continue in Super League was placed on Friday 10/06/22. The call went unanswered and was not returned, due to the approaching Basketball Ireland deadline a text message was then sent. However, prior to this, the coach had been aware and involved in discussions and several club meetings were held around the issue.

The club does regret that players were made aware of the decision by text message. The message thanked players for their dedication over the years and apologised that players were not being met in person. A committee member also phoned all players the following day.

Face to Face Meeting

Team members have since been contacted again, apologised to for being told by text and have been given the opportunity to meet face to face if they wish.

The players and coach were informed of the decision to withdraw 30.5 hours prior to the press release being sent to the media and 24 hours prior to the decision being relayed to the women’s board of Basketball Ireland.

During this time, no one made contact with the club to request that the decision be reconsidered.

Discussions were had with the coach around player numbers and on Wednesday, June 1st, at a meeting in Castleisland Community Centre, the coach informed the chair and vice chair of St. Mary’s that just six players were available, when asked if the club should contact the players, they were told ‘No, there is no need’ by Mr. Culloty.

Links Mentioned

No others were signed up or agreed on but the possibility of links was mentioned.

Club members had been approached (senior, U-20 and U-18) and had informed the club that they were not interested in playing at this time. At this meeting, the coach also informed the club chairperson, that unless two professional players were engaged, he would not be interested in coaching for the 22/23 season.

The chairman informed the coach that it was unlikely that the club would agree to this due to the huge cost involved but that he would bring it to a meeting. The estimated cost for bringing in two professional players, taking into consideration flights, wages, meals and accommodation would be in the region of €25,000.

Costs and Uncertainty

At a financial meeting on 09/06/22, a decision was made that the club could not incur this cost. The cost, the uncertainty of having a coach and the lack of players resulted in the decision to opt out of the league.

The Twitter comment ‘one or two professionals’ is misleading. No other interested players had come forward or been made know to the club. A basketball team is made up of 12 players, several more would normally be licensed for the year to cover during times of injury or absenteeism of players.

Ensuring Club Continuity

We have a huge number of teams in our club and must behave in a responsible manner with all finances to ensure the continuity of St. Mary’s Basketball Club Castleisland.

Last season, St. Mary’s had 13 female and 12 male teams. St. Mary’s played at the highest level in Ireland in the early ‘90s both with women’s and men’s teams.

We returned in the early 2000s with both and enjoyed great success.

Build to Return

Our men’s team continued up to 2014. Our women had opted out but returned once again and won the league in 2012. After another short break, they returned and won the All-Ireland club in 2016. A return to division one followed, the ladies were league runners up in 2019/20 before being invited into the Super League.

This club is ambitious, we aim for the highest level but when it is not possible to compete, we take a break to regroup and build for our return.”

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