Cork's Cian Kiely: ‘Basketball complements football’

Cian Kelly

Back in 2011, well before Dublin became dominant, their success was already considered the death-knell of one of Gaelic football’s time-honoured forces. Former Monaghan captain Owen Lennon had no time for basketballer Michael Darragh Macauley or Denis Bastick’s way of doing things.

“If Dublin are the example of the way the game is going, then there is no place for a traditional midfielder,” he bemoaned. “Bastick and Macauley are just athletes, they use the short kick-out more often and there is no room for the 50/50 kick-out.”

Lennon wasn’t wrong with that latter comment and basketball’s mitts are all over the game these days as the likes of Jim Gavin and former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice introduced coaches from the other code into their set-ups.

Irrespective of how the hardwood game has helped produce football stars from Liam McHale to Kieran Donaghy to Aidan O’Shea, there is an element of observers who reckon its influence on Gaelic football has become too powerful and has grown the prevalence of the handpass.

You won’t hear Cian Kiely saying anything of the sort, though, having claimed Simcox Cup, provincial and All-Ireland basketball medals with Ballincollig’s Coláiste Choilm. He can’t stress how much the code fits in with his football.

You’ve seen from playing basketball for so many years, the benefits that playing basketball can bring to football. My view as a PE student is that there are certain sports that complement each other. So it’s a fact that there are skills you learn in basketball that complement football and because of that, I don’t see why more clubs aren’t playing basketball in their pre-season.

"There’s a huge culture of basketball in Ballincollig and I think the clubs are connecting better than they ever have. I remember years ago in Ballincollig, they used to tarmac the car park for the winter and get two wheel-on basketball hoops and put them at each end.

"And instead of going running for eight weeks in December/January which you won’t find may people too enthusiastic about in winter, instead, you’re playing basketball and not only are you getting your fitness up, you’re learning key skills.

“Fundamental movement skills that will help you across the board. So your jumping will improve, your footwork will improve. Something which is huge is your vision which will improve. That’s what I think basketball is built on. If you follow NBA, there’s a lot of passing where you’re looking one direction and the pass goes the other way. It’s their vision which is something no one could dispute will help you in football.

If you’re getting bottled up in a tackle but you can see out of the side of your eye that there’s someone running that direction, straight away you can get a ball out that way. So I don’t know why people say that basketball should be pushed aside because it complements football in so many ways.

Now in his second season with Cork and in his last year studying PE and Irish in UCC, the 22-year-old is raring to put a collectively bitterly disappointing 2018 behind him. 

“There’s a lot of young people coming in and it’s kind of in a transitional phase, that was what was happening last year. This year, I think people are a lot more settled, I think everyone’s working harder than they were, training is fantastic, the backroom team are doing fantastic work to make sure everything is in place for us so I think we’re definitely going in the right direction.”

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