The Limerick Voice spoke to the Limerick Celtics wheelchair basketball team about their recent successes.
By Siadbh Redmond
Wheelchair basketball is becoming increasingly popular in Limerick with the recent successes of the Limerick Celtics’ thriving team.
Although originally operating as separate entities, the Limerick Scorpions and Limerick Celtics merged in 2021 under the latter name to form a single, united squad.
The team competes in the Irish Wheelchair Association (IWA) National League.
Joe Hargrow, player/coach for the Limerick Celtics team said, “We lost a bunch of players, hence the merging with Limerick Celtics but now, we are second in the league and hoping to finish out the season strong.”
Wheelchair basketball is considerably more physical than able-bodied basketball, with a lot more contact being made to the chairs and players.
This physicality can be challenging for some players who may have a more severe disabilities, but this is levelled out by the IWA classification system.
Another difference in the sport is that the teams are mixed with both men and women playing on the same squad.
With the wide range of disability levels in the sport, there is a classification system to make it fair. This system goes from a 1.0 to 4.5 in increments of 0.5.
For an example, an athlete with full use of their core would have a higher score over someone who may be paralyzed from the chest down and would only have use of their arms.
The mixture of high-classed players and low-classed players makes the game extremely tactical as team’s are only allowed 14 points on the court at any one time.
Sport should unite people and watching the Limerick Celtics wheelchair team it is evidentially clear that the group have overcome many obstacles to reach a high level of cohesion regardless of their individual disabilities.
Wheelchair basketball in general is an incredible sport and one that should be admired more for the sheer skill and fearlessness that each player has.
In this current season the Limerick Celtics wheelchair team have only suffered one loss to rivals Rebel Wheelers.
The competition features ten teams with each side facing each other once. Then the top 5 play each other while the bottom five do the same.
The Treaty side also entered the IWA National Cup, a knockout competition.
In the semi-final of the cup, the club faced Killester. It was the first meeting between the two sides this season.
The ever-dominant Tiarnan O’Donnell opened the scoring and never looked back from there scoring 30 points throughout.
The Celtics took hold of the lead, which they eventually won on a score line of 52-35. This victory secured their first-ever spot in the National Cup final in which they would face Rebel Wheelers.
The Cork side entered the final in search of their fourth consecutive National Cup title.
Unfortunately for Celtics Rebel Wheelers emerged victorious with a score of 69-55.
Despite this National Cup loss, the team is looking ahead to the play-offs section of the league.
University of Limerick Sports Scholar and member of the team, Tiarnan O’Donnell, has been one of the standout players of the season.
O’Donnell has starred for the team in key moments, hitting 33 points in the National Cup final.
The basketball player was diagnosed an AV malformation in his leg when he was 11 years old.
After consultations with hospitals in America, he decided along with his parents to amputate his leg, which had started to get progressively worse during his teen years.
Tiarnan travelled to London where doctors were able to remove the cancer from his calf and rearrange his knee to make it a pressure point for his prostatic leg.
Since then, he has had to learn to walk again with his prosthesis and thankfully the cancer has not returned to the rest of his leg.
“I’ve always been sporty, even before I had the problems with my legs.
“I didn’t even realise that I was eligible to play wheelchair basketball, but I immediately fell in love with it.”
Since then, O’Donnell quickly rose in the sport, captaining the Irish Under 23 Wheelchair team to a medal podium in Finland and featuring on the Irish Senior team.
Tiarnan says the choice to unite with Celtics has been the best decision the team has made.
“I love being part of the Celtics club. It is completely different being part of this club as it feels like a family and a community of basketball players, rather than being out on our own.”
While juggling basketball, Tiarnan studies Mechanical Engineering in UL and benefits from a sports scholarship.
This scholarship grants him a high-performance academic status, allowing him to maintain a high level of training while also getting good results in his degree.
The season’s highlight for O’Donnell was the National Cup final in Tallaght.
“The team gave everything they could during the game, but we just came out the wrong end of the result, but we have no doubt as a team that we will be right back into the final next year to take home the cup for Celtics”.
The Limerick Celtics wheelchair basketball team is made up of an array of players.
Despite this impairment this offers something unique to the team with everyone contributing to the scores.
Captain Jodie Waite, the only female on the team, says she is treated no differently to anyone else on the squad.
“I still get the same hits and bashes that anyone else on the team would get and they certainly don’t take it any easier on me.”
Another member of the team James McCarthy recently took up the sport again in 2013, after playing back in the 90’s.
“We have had a good season and it definitely feels like we are building, we struggled a bit with Covid and numbers but now we are growing again, and we are still in the mix for honours this season.”
For all updates on fixtures and results check out @limerickceltics on all social media platforms.
Barry Hennessy on battle with eating disorder
By Aoife O’Reilly
Former Limerick hurling goalkeeper Barry Hennessy, who works with Bodywhys, said he spent years battling bulimia.
The statistics show that one in seven men will develop an eating disorder by age 40, while only 5% to 15% of people with eating disorders seek help.
He recalls the toughest point for him in 2013 where his battle with bulimia was out of control.
“It was like a black hole that I fell further and further into…For me it was like an addiction, I watched the numbers on the scales go down, and I wanted them to go down more and more.”
Hennessy felt ashamed of the thought of his peers knowing that he was suffering from an eating disorder and contemplated leaving hurling.
“Hurling meant everything to me at the time and I said to myself that if this continued, I would risk no longer playing for Limerick anymore.”
“I was able to pull myself out of the cycle, however to this day there are still certain foods that I won’t eat, so the control element of my eating disorder is still there.”
Hennessy has encouraged those who are struggling with an eating disorder to speak out and get the help they need.
For more information, please visit their website bodywhys.ie.