The Limerick Celtics and Irish Basketball star spoke to the Limerick Voice about his time in America
By Joe Saunders
Stateside on a basketball scholarship at 19, Ruairi Cronin has achieved more than your average Joe in the sporting world.
Basketball is the bread and butter for the Limerick Celtics man. His name has been at the forefront of Irish basketball spheres for some time.
The former Ireland U18 captain’s 50-point All-Ireland Schools final performance with Castletroy College in 2020 underlined his talent.
The 6’3” guard is currently a scholarship student at Choate College in Connecticut – studying business while playing basketball.
Playing his club GAA trade with Ahane, he also starred at full forward on the Limerick minor team in 2021 – the first Limerick side to reach the provincial final at that rank since 1998.
Q: What are the biggest differences from Ireland you have noticed on the court in America?
A: “There are a lot of differences. I think the main thing is the raw athleticism, everyone here is so much bouncier and bigger. At home, if you’re going for a lay-up, you don’t really have to worry about it, but here a 6’10” guy can jump from the back of you and pin you off the backboard. It’s a lot harder to get the shots that you would’ve back home, but also if you have good IQ, I think it could be easier to play in America because a lot of it is skill-based. In Europe, it’s more fundamental and team basketball, whereas here it’s more 1v1 and ‘who can jump the highest?’ A major difference is that we play with two 16-minute halves instead of four quarters. Off the court, I think people in Ireland don’t realise that people in America are just as nice as Irish people – sometimes too nice, they’re really welcoming.”
Q: How has your season gone?
A: “When I first came, I wasn’t as good as I wanted to be. I was just getting used to it, probably not getting as many shots as I would’ve liked too. As the season has gone on, I’ve been getting more comfortable, started playing well and I’m really enjoying it ever since I came back from home at Christmas.”
Q: You were captain on the U18 Ireland team at the European Championships last summer, how did you find that?
A: “I thought it was a good experience. I was injured for a lot of the training, but I was always there…We were coming off the back of COVID, so I was the only one who had an international cap, so I think all of us were a bit nervous. We just struggled to get over the line in a lot of games that we should’ve won. [But] that was one of the funniest teams I’ve ever been a part of. Paul Kelleher was a great coach too.”
Q: What are your thoughts on this year’s National League at home, obviously your club Limerick Celtics are having a good season as well?
A: “Basketball is definitely growing a lot at home. Even when I watch the Basketball Ireland TV streams, they have the full sidelines filled out and stuff…The pros that are going over [to Ireland] are really good. Limerick Celtics are definitely one of the best clubs for letting young people play. The quality is getting better too. Even with the Instagram pages, people are definitely starting to follow it more.”
Q: What do you think Ireland could do better to improve its basketball scene?
A: “Just getting it out there a bit more to compete with the other sports, maybe some more facilities too. Playing on the Irish teams growing up, I’ve always had to pay for training. If I told someone here that I have to pay to be on the Irish team, they’d just laugh at me…you have to pay around €2,000 up front to be part of the team.”
Ruairi hopes to be part of the Irish U20 set-up this summer as they head to North Macedonia for the FIBA European Championship.
Looking further forward, his main priority is using the sport to get a degree and emulate some Irish basketballing legends by playing closer to home.
“I’d definitely like to play in Europe. I’ve seen a lot of Irish people do it. The likes of Adrian Fulton and Paddy Lyons in Germany, Jordan Blount played a year in Iceland, so just doing that for a few years would be great.”