As the clock ticked down on the Boys’ U13 basketball final, the Castleisland supporters — and they were numerous — rose to their feet to begin the descent towards the court, safe in the knowledge the gold medals were heading south.
Joyous celebrations, led by twins and joint-captains Eddie and Sean Horan, abounded.
The 37-29 win over Malahide was a first national finals win for this current crop, but for Castleisland, Community Games success is an age-old habit.
Much like Claregalway/Lackagh in the hurling and the Heath of Laois in rounders, Castleisland’s presence in the basketball competition is almost a given year after year.
“Castleisland have been up since day one,” quipped joint-manager Brid Kenny. “Some years we used to be lucky, we’d be up in all four categories, boys and girls at U13 and U16. You will always have a Castleisland team in Athlone. It is an essential part of our season.”
Last year alone the club claimed silver and bronze in the girls’ U13 and U16 respectively, but the decision to remove the latter grade from Games basketball programme limited their involvement this time around, ensuring that teams would only have two opportunities to compete in Athlone — the U13 and the mixed U11 competitions.
Two years ago, the Kerry outfit had played second fiddle to Malahide in the U11 semi-final and so Sunday’s decider presented an opportunity for atonement.
“Five of the boys that won gold today would have been on that team beaten by Malahide,” explained Kenny. “They would have known these lads and their capabilities. To come back and get the gold was terrific.”
Joint-manager Eamon Egan said the victory was all the sweeter given the team won’t be returning three years down the line for a crack at the now defunct U16 competition.
“It was a special win for us because the lads won’t be back here again. We’d look forward to coaching them all the way up along to U16, bringing them up here again to have another shot at a gold medal.
“We knew we would have to be up for it as Malahide were always going to throw everything at us. To be fair to the lads they showed great heart.
“They knew that this would be their last chance to get a gold medal and they didn’t let it pass.
“We have been with this group for a good number of years and they are a fantastic bunch of lads. They are so easy to work with.”
Although this particular bunch won’t be returning to Athlone, you can be sure Castleisland will be back again next summer.
Kenny added: “It just wouldn’t be the Community Games without those black and red jerseys treading the boards.”