Castletownshend basketball star Kellie Cahalane recently captained the Fr Mathews basketball team to success in the Senior Women’s cup final at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin. Kellie played a key role in propelling the Cork City based basketball team to an historic first ever cup success at a national level. John Bohane catches up with the Castletownshend sports star who hails from a basketball dynasty in West Cork.
Kellie played a starring role in helping Fr Mathews defeat hot favourites Meteors following a thrilling cup final tie on a final scoreline of 55-45. Fr Matthews started the cup final initially in subdued fashion, which saw them trail by eight points entering the final quarter. Kellie was however under no illusions her colleagues would eke out a stunning triumph. “It was a fantastic win, we’re still celebrating to be honest. It doesn’t happen too often so we’re enjoying this one. We had a nervous start, but so did Meteors, so that helped calm us down a little bit. It was a particularly low scoring game for us, so coming into the third quarter we knew we needed to up our game in order to get over the line. We were eight points down coming into the fourth quarter, but we’ve been there before. We possess the experience to remain calm when the game is on the line and that’s what we did. It all fell into place for us gradually. Our shots began to fall and our defence against a much bigger and more physical side was unbelievable at times. The heart and the determination showed by the team won us the game in the end,” declared their proud captain.
The West Cork heroine relished the role of leading her side to victory. “Lifting the cup in front of a packed stadium in Tallaght was an extremely proud moment for me. Being a captain carries a special feeling, the players are like family and the club is like home, so getting the chance to walk out in front of such a special bunch and lift the cup was a massive privilege.”
Victory in the Senior Women’s cup final represented not only Fr Mathews first ever capture of a senior cup title, but also Kellie’s first ever cup medal. The heroic senior basketball team received a huge reception and welcome home upon their arrival back on Leeside after their fateful triumph. “We enjoy great celebrations back in Cork. Yes I would have to admit as a 31-year-old playing at this level, this win is definitely up there with my achievements. The effort and training you put into sport, both on and off the court, is incredible at times, but being able to win the first club national title with this club was a very special day for all involved. It makes the effort all worthwhile. Every player dreams of winning the cup and to win it with family, friends and a packed stadium of young impressionable kids present was a moment to cherish forever.”
Kellie was delighted to achieve her best moment of her illustrious basketball career with her proud family members present in the National Basketball Arena, Tallaght. “It is hard to put into words the emotion and somewhat relief when the final buzzer went. Having sisters who played basketball at a high level, parents travelling from West Cork and busloads of young Fr Mathews’ kids watching made the win that little bit extra special. These big sporting moments don’t come around very often especially at my age, but when they do, you have have to enjoy the experience. I was adamant I was going to enjoy the build up and the day itself. I absolutely did. It was hard not to shed a few tears at the end, this win was special on so many levels.”
Kellie is renowned for her competitive nature on the basketball court. She credits this mental and physical toughness to her childhood days growing up in Castletownshend where she played basketball with her sisters and neighbours on the local village court. “To say we are a competitive bunch is an understatement. Growing up in Castletownshend, we spent our lives outdoors playing all sorts of sport to all hours. I have great memories of spending summers playing sport with my neighbours Shane Crowley and Lisa Cahalane. It was a great era to grow up in, as that time the village was full of young kids, the Crowley’s, the Salters and ourselves. It was a haven of craic and mischief. My parents played a big part too, they have always instilled a great sense of competitiveness in us and to always aspire to be the best in every aspect of life. It was great to reward them with such a big cup win and for them to witness it was an extremely special moment. My nieces were the team mascots, so when the national anthem began to play and they were standing in front of me looking up at the flag, I’ll admit the hairs were standing on the back of my neck. Generally, I don’t tend to get nervous, but I will never forget that feeling of pride at that particular moment.”
Kellie represented both Skibbereen Basketball Club and the Mercy Heights basketball team where she attended secondary school with great distinction and honour. She is indebted to all the various coaches who played a huge role in her development into a star basketball player. “From a young age I played with Mercy Heights and Skibbereen Eagles. We enjoyed a number of big wins with guidance from John O’Mahony and Mags Breen in the latter years. We had a unique group of very talented players in school. Siobhan Courtney, Lisa Cahalane and Sinead Ennis were among the many brilliant players we had in our team. I have very fond memories of winning with these girls and they most definitely helped shaped me to be the player I am today. I think the most outstanding memory I have was winning the First Year All-Ireland in Tallaght National Basketball Arena with girls I had attended primary school with. Looking back now, we didn’t realise the magnitude of what we had won, but it was one of the best days of my life. I had many great days playing basketball for the University of Limerick also. We never won anything of great significance but we had great craic. Sometimes, being part of a team is more than what happens on the court.”
Kellie has played basketball for as long as she can remember. She was inspired to play following the great progress of her two older sisters, Michelle and April, two superb players who each had the privilege of representing their country. Kellie is grateful for the role basketball has played in her life. “I’ve had a ball in my hand since I was very small, both my sisters played so what they did I wanted to do better. Basketball has played a huge roll in my life. It is a fantastic sport. I’ve travelled to a number of countries representing Ireland when I was younger so I was forced to grow up faster than most. Being away from home every second weekend from the age of 15 to 19 was never easy, but thinking back it was an unbelievable achievement. To think that all three sisters represented Ireland in our sport is incredible and we will always have found memories of wearing the Irish jersey. I remember one particular European tournament in Lithuania at junior women’s level, I had received the Irish MVP for the tournament. When we arrived home at 2am in the morning, my parents had Irish flags hanging out the windows to welcome me home. That was our celebration back then. You make friends for life in this sport and learn to enjoy the wins and learn from the losses. I will always have basketball in my life; my fianceé plays for Fr Mathews Men’s National League team, my nieces and nephew are starting to play now, which is so special. Whether I play or take a coaching position in the next year or so, I know my playing days are numbered, but I can promise I will always give back to the sport that gave me so much for so many years.”
Kellie has another big date approaching in the foreseeable future as she and her fiancee Fr Mathews senior men’s player Paul O’Driscoll will celebrate their big day on June 16th. The duo hope to win more cups before their big day. “We are both smack bang in the middle of our basketball seasons, which makes the wedding planning a little bit harder, but we’ll be ready to party come June 16. I can guarantee we’ll celebrate that occasion too with family, friends and team mates. Hopefully we’ll have another cup or two to celebrate before the big day comes around.”