As statements of intents go, it’s quite a mouthful.
Fr Mathews open basketball’s National League season tomorrow with a tasty Men’s Division One derby against Ballincollig, and within a month the club will debut in the Women’s Superleague. Both fixtures will have the additional bounce of a new stadium for the 16-year old Fr Mathews club at the old Tennis Village on Cork’s Model Farm Road.
A new €120,000 Fr Mathews Arena. Women’s Superleague status. And the signing of star turns like Gráinne Dwyer, Shannon Brady (in from Meteors), and (ex-Glanmire standout) Chantelle Alford suggest that the outfit on the south side of Cork city will have lots of momentum in their locker this season.
The club was already investigating the options of a settled base when the roof was blown off their temporary home at Douglas Community School in last October’s storms. Once they agreed a lease agreement with the landlords at the Tennis Village, work on realising a long-held ambition of their own home began in earnest last June, explained Fr Mathews chairman Diarmuid Nolan yesterday.
€60,000 of state funding went into the Arena revamp. Added the chairman: “To further the club’s future development (this) suitable venue on the southside of the city was identified which has very good access from the club’s current catchment areas.
In terms of the decision to go up to the Superleague we had to satisfy three key criteria of our own — could we be competitive, could the programme prove self-financing and would we continue to develop our own under-age talent to come through?
“Once we had satisfied ourselves on those issues, we decided to go for it.”
The club’s social media platforms have charted the overhaul from tennis courts to a slick new hoops arena in recent months, and the curtain comes back for real tomorrow against Cup winners Ballincollig — who ironically are geographically closer to the Arena than any other club.
Fr Mathews elevation to the Women’s Superleague means there will be three Cork clubs in the top flight this season. Mathews open their campaign on October 6 at home to NUIG Mystics with James Fleming and Niamh Dwyer calling the plays, and her sister Grainne running the floor.
Nolan though said the club is conscious of not skewing the balance away from the club’s own indigenous talents. The Dwyer sisters will coach the club’s promising U18 girls squad.
Said Gráinne: “To get an opportunity to play in the Super League again with Niamh was something I didn’t think would ever arise, and it prompted me to take stock and reflect on my playing plans for the next few years.
“I am very excited and impressed with the vision and ambition in Fr Mathews Basketball Club and, while I enjoyed tremendous success and made great friends on and off the court in Glanmire, I think the time is right now for me to take on a new challenge at this club.”