Tralee Schools Basketballers Heading To Euro Championships This Summer

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Principal of Mercy Mounthawk, John O’Roarke with their international basketballers Leeroy Idiahio, Tim and Sean Pollmann-Daamen and Daire Kennelly. Also pictured are coaches John Dowling (left) and Jimmy Diggins (right). Photo by Dermot Crean

THESE are heady days for basketball in Tralee.

With the fantastic success of Warriors over the past few years, the town has gone basketball crazy, none more so than in the town’s secondary schools which are now producing some of the best talent in the country.

Rapolas Buivydas.

Over in CBS The Green, Rapolas Buivydas has been starring on the local and international stage, even winning the Basketball Ireland International Male Player of the Year Award back in September. He has been called up for the Irish U18 squad for the upcoming European Championships and he’ll be joined by familiar faces.

But in Mercy Mounthawk, the depth of talent is astounding and now sees four male players on the Irish Under 16 and Under 18 squads heading to the European Championships this summer.

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Daire Kennelly from Camp and Leeroy Odiahio from Tralee have made the final 12 for the Under 18s for the FIBA U18 Men’s European Championship Division B in Romania in July.

Meanwhile, brothers Sean and Tim Pollmann-Daamen from Ballymac have made the final 12 for the Under 16 FIBA U16 Men’s European Championship Division B in Montenegro in August.

Third year students Tim and Sean, who play with Ballymac Bobcats, have to juggle studying for the Junior Cert with their training, but they’re managing fine.

“We’ve been playing since we were in junior infants. Our parents [Anne and Klaus] got us into it. Bobcats was just formed when we started playing,” said Tim.

Getting to the Euros has been a tough process as Sean described. “We called up for trials last year as part of a group of 40. It was cut to 24, then to 18 and we went to Belarus for a tournament. Then we went from 15 to the final 12.”

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For fifth year student Leeroy Odiahio, who has just turned 17, the progress has been phenomenal. “I’m only playing about two years. The caretaker spotted me playing and told John [Dowling, coach] about me. He brought me in to Tralee Imperials and I went on from there.”

Initially he tried out for the Irish Under 16s last year, but due mainly to injuries, he didn’t make it. But Irish coach Paul Kelleher invited him to the Under 18 trials back in September and he went on from there to make the final 12.

“I can’t wait for the summer and I can’t believe I’m going to the Euros as it’s all happened so fast, having just started playing two years ago,” said Leeroy, son of Emily Joseph and Benjamin Joseph Odiahio.

Fellow fifth year student, Daire Kennelly, has considerable international experience already. He made the Irish U16 squad in May of 2017 to play in the European Championships that year in Belarus. Since then he has regularly made Irish squads.

“I only started playing basketball in first year for the fun of it and it went on from there. I can’t wait now, Romania should be a great experience and challenge,” said Daire, son of Veronica and Brendan Kennelly.

Principal of Mercy Mounthawk, John O’Roarke paid tribute to the students. “We’re immensely proud of the lads and the work and dedication they have put in to achieve this. They’re here in the mornings, evenings, the weekends and even their holidays. They have practised and worked and that dedication has now paid off.”

Their school basketball coaches Jimmy Diggins and John Dowling — who deserve great credit for nurturing the boys development over the years — are both hugely proud of the four lads and will be travelling to cheer them on over in Montenegro and Romania.

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