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Basketball blitz success a victory for Christmas spirit

Hard-working volunteers making sure special Castleisland event is better than ever in its 46th year.

IT WOULDN’T FEEL festive in Castleisland, County Kerry without the St Mary’s Basketball Club’s annual Christmas Blitz.

The tournament is in its 46th year and has gone from strength to strength since it was first envisioned by three locals in 1970.

From modest beginnings of two competitions, 18 games, 12 teams and a crowd of 350, it has become a national institution and one of the biggest events of its kind in Ireland.

This year will see 23 competitions featuring 169 games run over five days between 157 teams, 1740 players and crowd numbers of about 13,000.

The event is about so much more than basketball; it showcases the warm festive spirit in a community that is all about pitching in.

castleislandblitz Daragh and Michael Broderick, Fr. Blitzmas, club chairman Maurice Casey and Nelius Lyons.

And Liz Galwey, the event’s PRO, says that’s what makes it so special; the whole community gets involved and they are never left searching for volunteers.

The competitors come in all shapes and sizes too. Starting with second-class primary school pupils, all the way up to Super League players – this event has it all.

“The event tries to cater for everybody, from second class in national school right up to people in their 50s.

“The national school games are the most exciting, to be honest. There might only be a point in it in those games and the excitement is incredible.”

The tournament will commence on St Stephen’s Day and run until 30 December and will be staged at St John’s Hall and in the Castleisland Community Centre.

Galwey admits huge work goes into the blitz every year, with man, woman and child involved in making sure it continues to be such a success. She reveals that the blitz almost runs itself these days, and that is testament to the number of dedicated volunteers.

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While the success of the event is largely down to a group effort, she heaps particular praise on tournament director Donal O’Connor who was one of three men involved in the founding of the blitz 45 years ago.

The tournament provides a rare link between grassroots and elite level as there are also premier men’s and women’s competitions alongside those for national schoolchildren.

The premier men’s section consist of teams from Dublin, Limerick, Galway and Kerry as Super league sides Swords Thunder, UL Eagles and Airtricity Moycullen will take part along with Kerry Division One side Team Keanes Supervalu Killorglin.

The premier ladies’ section consists of St Mary’s Team Denjoes, Fr Matthews and Brunell from Cork and Tralee.

Castleislandbasketballblitz2 At launch of the 46th annual Basketball Blitz in Castleisland are l-r: Jim Garvey sponsor, club secretary Reidin O'Loughlin, tournament director Donal O'Connor and Joan Nolan.

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Alan Waldron

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