Elite list beckons as Sealy strives for five

ON every great team there is the player who picks up the pieces and has the ability to make things happen; the ones who suddenly appear out of nowhere when the going gets tough.

Damien Sealy is one such player and should Killester beat defending champions, UCC Demons, to win the Men’s National Cup tomorrow it will place him on an elite list of legendary players who have won five cups.

He won a cup medal with Killester in 2001 and that was after winning three with Denny Notre Dame in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

A Killester win tomorrow will put him alongside Terry Strickland who won three cups with Neptune and two with St. Vincent’s and Tom O’Sullivan and Brendan O’Flaherty who won four with Neptune and one with Ballina.

Shane Coughlan and Niall O’Reilly, however, will earn their own special place in the annals of Irish basketball should Demons win as the only players in history to win five national cup medals with the same club.

Born into a soccer-mad family in Waterford, the young Sealy could have pursued a career in that code but he started playing basketball with the local Thomas Francis Maher club and when he went to De La Salle College he found they had a good basketball team.

“It is a big GAA school but the year I went in a lot of fellows played basketball,” he recalled. “I got better as I got older and by the time I was 17 I had grown – I was after stretching – so basketball was easy for me. I always played soccer but I found basketball easier and it was indoors. I was never a lover of the cold.”

“I played national league with Waterford Wildcats back in 88/89 but they kind of went belly-up. There was no national league team. They just went with the women. I did a couple of years with Waterford Crystal but they weren’t national league at that time.

“Then I came to Dublin to play with Killester in 1991. I did five years with them, three years with Denny and then back with Killester. I won three cups with Denny 98, 99 and 2000 and then in 2001 with Killester.”

At 38 years of age he is enjoying the game as much as ever even though he does not get as much court time those days. In the cup semi-final against UCD Marian he underscored his presence with two big three-pointers as well as several rebounds.

“I don’t play as much as I used to, I am getting older now, but I am enjoying it, it’s brilliant,” he said.

Two years ago he missed out on the cup medal when he went into a brief period of retirement.

“We have four kids – when the fourth one arrived I decided to do the dutiful thing and I packed it in to give the wife a hand around the house,” he said. “That lasted a year before she threw me back out playing. She encouraged me to go back and it was a good time to go back because our eldest, Deborah, is 10 and I have a lad, Dan, who is seven, and they were getting interested in sport and coming to the games.”

He admitted last year’s loss to Demons was a big disappointment to Killester and the memory will be a motivating factor tomorrow.

“We are not a bad side,” he insisted. “We have our moments. We have good days and bad days like everybody else.

“Demons are a very experienced side. All of them were there last year when they won the double and the younger guys who have come in have under-19 medals so they are used to playing in big games too.

“A couple of our lads haven’t won – the likes of Pete Madsen who has lost two finals and Jermaine (Turner) who has lost one – they are going for their first cup. Most of the others have cup medals from a couple of years back. Paddy Kelly was there in 2001 with myself and Mike Westbrooks. There is a lot of experience on both teams.

“I think it is a toss of a coin at the weekend. The bookies have Demons favourites and we are the underdogs – we’ll take that.”

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