It’s been 16 years since St Columb’s College last won an All-Ireland Title; tomorrow they have a chance to reset the clock on that particular statistic. The past 16 years haven’t been an easy ride, in 1996 the team won an All-Ireland u16 and u19 “C” double on the same day and from that point the school moved straight up into the “A” division. These teams were led by players such as Colum O’Neil and Irish international and NCAA scholarship player Ronan O’Leary. Although competitive in the “A” they would never reach the final, having to be content with a couple of semi-final appearances and two Ulster Cup wins.
By 2004 competitive basketball had faded out of St Columb’s but with Ciaran Stevenson returning to the school in 2006, and with the emergence of North Star Basketball Club, the school once again started to compete and in 2009 reached the All-Ireland “C” final once again. With key players in early foul trouble they suffered a heat breaking loss and would suffer further pain as they had to watch as cross city rivals St Joseph’s lifted the u19 Cup and went on to win a further two titles in the following two years.
The same generation of players who lost out in 2009 have a 6am start tomorrow as they set out on the road to the National Arena in Tallaght. It is their last chance at redemption before they move on from schools basketball and it is possibly the last competitive basketball game that some of the squad will ever play.
The team is led by 6’5″ Michael Brennan who is partnered in the front court by Neil McLaughlin. The backcourt consists of Nathan Brown, Aaron Temple and Irish u16 International Jordan McClelland. Players like Kevin Bulloch, Adam Wilson and Dave McCafferty will give valuable minutes off the bench in a team which is now much deeper than the squad that lost out in 2009.
This year the team lost out to eventual winners St Mary’s Belfast in the All-Ireland cup but would later defeat the same St Mary’s team in a closely fought Ulster League final in St Malachy’s. This let them qualify for the All-Ireland playoffs where St Columb’s won their group of four before meeting Belvedere college in the Semi-Final. With the game tied and 0.00 left on the clock Aaron Temple was sent to the line for two, check the video below to see what happened:
St Columb’s meet St Paul’s Raheny in the final. The teams played in an early round of the cup and St Columb’s won a close game at home. The final will be a difficult task as it is as near to a home game as possible for St Paul’s who are led by Irish International Paddy Sullivan. Added to this St Columb’s Michael Brennan today played for St Columb’s in the GAA McLarnon cup final in Armagh so two finals and extensive travel over two days are likely to take it’s toll. But no excuses will be put forward by Stevenson and the St Columb’s boys as they know that it’s is all or nothing now. It is their chance to follow in the footsteps of the squad of 1996 and create memories that will last a lifetime. Good luck to the squad and coach Stevenson from all at TCC!
TCC will be at the game and check back in the coming days for video footage and a full update.