Tony Hehir couldn’t have been happier when overtime ended yesterday and the scoreboard in Inchicore’s Oblate Hall confirmed that his Mary Immaculate College side had claimed the All-Ireland Colleges Ladies Division 2 title.
Then he turned and glanced down towards the opposite bench, remembered that it was his wife Michelle Aspell who was the losing Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) coach and the sea of emotions rising within began to chop and churn.
“Ah, it’s mixed feelings alright. It was just such a fantastic game and I’d have such a great relationship with people on both teams. You couldn’t know what was going to happen. I know sport is chaotic but it just swung each way so many times.
“When the game starts that’s all you focus on. There is so much going on and then it’s all over and you look down the line and you think ‘aw shit!’ We’re very supportive of each other and it’s just great for basketball in Limerick that we had two teams in the final.”
Even better was the game they served up.
Mary I didn’t hold the lead once until the game stretched into overtime. The 57-55 win was only secured after two LIT three-pointers failed to find the basket inside the last nine seconds. No wonder Aspell joked about getting the spare bed ready for hubby.
The game itself aside, it must have made for a strange day. Hehir and Aspell sat down for breakfast as normal yesterday but they travelled separately to Dublin and their conflicted emotions were shared by their eldest, 16-year old Jordan, when the final ended.
“He didn’t know which way to turn,” said Aspell through a light chuckle.
The ties that bound entangled more than just the one family.
Hehir was a coach with a glittering CV in the elite men’s and women’s games, while Aspell is quite simply one of the finest Irish basketball players ever, but having a child prompted husband and wife to divert their energies towards the grassroots and the founding of Limerick Celtics BC nine years ago.
The ripple effect washed over yesterday’s events.
The Celtics — so-named because the brainwave hit them when they were on holidays in Boston — now caters for 250 children while the women’s team, of which Aspell is a member, fell to Maree BC of Galway in the Hula Hoops National Intermediate Cup final only last month.
Two of Aspell’s LIT players played alongside her that day, as did a pair from the Mary I panel. Hehir was coach and he was the man calling the shots again last Thursday when Jordan’s Crescent Comprehensive saw off St Mary’s Diocesan of Drogheda in the U19s Boys All-Ireland Schools ‘B’ League final.
It all makes for a complicated, confusing but immensely rewarding tapestry and the family’s footprint on the game only looks like deepening given six-year old daughter Megan appeared in her first competition at a local parochial hall in Limerick in the last week.
Meanwhile, the Men’s final meanwhile pitted LYIT Donegal against Dundalk IT and produced yet another superb game, with LYIT winning 95-82 after overtime. Stephen Casiello starred for LYIT.
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