It has been 18 long months since the Marble City Hawks have stepped foot on a basketball court.
The Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on indoor sports scheduling and basketball was one of those sports that has been put on pause for a prolonged period of time.
However, the wait is over for players, coaches and supporters alike as Marble City Hawks host NUIG Mystics at 2pm on Sunday in the MissQuoute.ie Division 1 National League.
Speaking to KCLR’s Scoreline about finally getting the opportunity to return to competitive action, Marble City Hawks’ player Aine Sheehy rejoiced in the fact that the team will be playing in O’Loughlin Gaels’ gym tomorrow afternoon.
“We’re absolutely buzzing. It’s been a long time coming and being an indoor sport there was a lot of worry about when we would return but it’s just great to finally be back after such a long wait,” said Sheehy.
Sheehy’s teammate Fiona Whitely stressed that while preparations have been far from ideal due to the restrictions placed on indoor sports’ activity, the entire squad are prepared for the season ahead.
Whitely revealed: “We’ve had one training game and we’ve been training for six weeks in the gym.
“Everything has been ‘take it as it comes’ and we just had to work under the regulations, but we’re prepared to return now.”
A consequence of the pandemic across all sports has been high levels of drop offs from players as a result of the lack of any activity.
While Sheehy admitted that the side have had several retirements, she believes that younger players will now have an opportunity that may not have come their way prior to a “whole host of retirements.”
“Some of our key players have retired. The 18-month wait has not helped in that regard.
“But, on the other hand, a lot of younger players are now ready to take the step up and play for the team and remain competitive. They have their chance now and they have to take it.”
The Hawks have been regulars in the Super League in previous years but Whitely broke down the reasoning behind why they have opted to enter Division 1 this season.
“We’ve taken the year to rebuild with what is a relatively new squad of players and that’s why we have decided to enter into Divison 1 rather than compete at Super League level which may be a step too far for us at the moment.”
The new look squad of players are now under the stewardship of new head coach Darius Norvillis. The Lithuanian will have an extra week to implement his style of play following confirmation that his team will have a bye in the first round of the National Cup.
As a stalwart of the Hawks for a number of years, Whitely feels that advancing into the second round without a gruelling away trip could prove crucial, particularly at the start of the season.
“The bye in the National Cup will give us that extra week of training that could be needed so it is a big help to not have to play in the first round because there is a lot of travelling involved with that competition which wouldn’t be ideal given the lack of training and preparation for the season,” she said.
Sheehy was keen to play down expectations for the season but did give a definitive answer when asked what the hopes are for the 2021/22 campaign.
“We’re just hoping to find our feet in the first few games and see where we stand.
“We’d like to finish in the top four but we have a lot of new players along with some Super League experience, so we have to blend as a squad and see where that takes us.”