What a year it’s been for Rebel Wheelers Basketball. Saying the wheelchair basketball wing of the multi sports club has lots to celebrate is something of an understatement. In only its second year under the Rebel Wheelers banner, the former Fr Mathews crew progressed from third place in the league to winning all three national titles so far this year – the Hula Hoops National Cup, the Irish Wheelchair Basketball League and the Paddy Byrne Cup. Most impressive, however, is the fact that Rebel Wheelers has remained unbeaten all season, with 22 games and over 1200 points under their belts, they are a force to be reckoned with. Their success hasn’t gone unnoticed and five of the senior squad are currently training with the Irish senior team – Dylan McCarthy, Paul Ryan (capt), Derek Hegarty, Conor Coughlan and Jack Quinn. The Irish under-23 team also includes Rebel Wheelers Alex Henerby, Tiarnan O’Donnell, Conor Coughlan, Dylan McCarthy and Jack Quinn. Cork city native Derek Hegarty has proved himself the jewel in the Rebel’s crown this season, winning the Irish Wheelchair Basketball Men’s Player of the Year award in Croke Park on the 13th May. Most notable among Hegarty’s performances was his 48 point total scored in a league game against South East Swifts from Kilkenny a little over a month ago.
So what does Rebel Wheelers attribute its success to? Run by a dedicated team of parents, the club celebrated its tenth anniversary last year and since its inception the commitment of its members would rival that of the most successful GAA club. Whether its travelling the length and breadth of the country for games or planning the next fundraising event, the club has reaped the rewards of 10 years of dedication and hard work. They deserve their accolade.
According to the club’s senior coach Ballinhassig native Con Coughlan, “There is no substitute for hard work. Pre-season started last July for three months under the stewardship of Alan Dineen, Rebel Wheelers’ strength and conditioning coach. This set the team up to be the fittest in the league. With their basketball skills improving all the time under the watchful eye of the more experienced players on the team, namely Paul Ryan, Derek Hegarty and Joe Hargrow, the juniors on the team have blossomed and have earned rave reviews from all who have witnessed them playing and who have played against them. None of this would be possible without the huge support we get from Rebel Wheelers Multi Sports Club and every parent who has a child playing. They support us in every way possible to achieve what we have to date, be it driving the bus, catering, table officials, photography, fundraising and most importantly being committee members.”
Con’s coaching expertise has earned him a place on the Irish senior team as assistant coach, and senior coach for the Irish under-23s, assisted by Alan Dineen. There’s no break for Coughlan and Dineen at the end of the season when they switch their allegiance to the Irish teams in preparation for the U23 European Championships in Finland in June and the Senior European Championships in Bulgaria in July.
The Cork club has much to celebrate. As well as Derek Hegarty’s award, captain Paul Ryan won Most Valued Player in the Hula Hoops Cup Final and Dylan McCarthy took the same title for the League Cup. Junior awards include Best Rebel Wheelers player Darragh O’Regan and Most Improved player Cormac O’Brien.
So what does the future hold for the club? Rebel Wheelers junior basketball comprises approximately 16 children, plus some siblings, who train every week in Ballyphehane Community Centre. Walking into the hall during their training session the first thing that hits you is the confidence of these kids. The skill demonstrated by each and every one of them even at this early age is staggering. Junior basketball blitzes are held on a monthly basis at different clubs around the country and Rebel Wheelers venture as far away as Belfast religiously to these events. The future is indeed bright for Rebel Wheelers Basketball.
Rebel Wheelers Basketball train every Tuesday at Ballyphehane Community Centre, Juniors 7-8pm, Seniors 8-10pm and the seniors also train at Ursulines Secondary School in Blackrock every Thursday.
Senior Coaches/Players: Con Coughlan, Alan Dineen; Junior Coaches: Jerry O’Regan, Aidan O’Brien
Team Captain: Paul Ryan
Senior Team: Dylan McCarthy, Conor Coughlan, Alan Dineen, Derek Hegarty, Joe Hargrow, Alex Henerby, Jack Quinn, Tiernan O’Donnell, Darragh O’Regan, Sean Ryan, Darragh O’Regan