STEPPING outside the basketball bubble wasn’t an easy decision for Kellie Cahalane to make.
But after the busiest year of her life, she needed to claw back some time for herself.
As well as getting married to Paul O’Driscoll in June, going on honeymoon to Mauritius and South Africa, and moving house, the Castletownshend woman also captained Fr Matthews to a double earlier in the year.
‘I am taking a little bit of a break. It was a huge decision and I’m still struggling with it,’ Kellie (32) said after receiving her Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star monthly award.
‘It’s such a huge commitment. I have been playing competitively since I was about 16, playing with the school, in college and on Irish teams, so I decided this season to take a few months off.
‘What I miss the most is the competitiveness, I’m not the greatest for sitting quietly in the stands, but the time out has been good so far. I get to watch Paul play and it’s nice to see that aspect of it.
‘When you talk about commitment, with basketball you have training two or three nights a week and then you have games every weekend and could be away to Belfast, Donegal, Dublin.
‘Then there is everything else that goes into it outside of basketball training as well, you are in the gym four or five times a week, I saw a nutritionist last season as well to make sure I was eating really well.
‘I have a sister in Dublin and a sister in Galway so it’s been nice to spend a bit of time with them as well. And it’s been a nuts year too.’
Nuts is one word to describe is. Special is another. Let’s rewind back to Fr Matthews’ senior National Cup win in January.
Kellie was co-captain of the team that beat Meteors 55-45 at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
Her two nieces, Zara and Heidi Murphy (daughters of Michelle, Kellie’s oldest sister), were the team mascots.
‘Generally, I don’t get nervous for the big games but I will never forget there were hairs standing on the back of my neck when the two girls were standing in front of me before the game for the national anthem. It was a special occasion, for my family and the club, and knowing that it might be the last time I might get to play in a cup final,’ she recalled.
‘On a personal it was a relief to win the cup because I have been knocking on the door for so long, to finally get there and do it was brilliant.
‘For the club it was special too, the first senior title, so it meant a lot to the people who have worked so hard for so many years.’
In March, Kellie added the Women’s Division One play-off final win to her list of accolades, another memorable day for the West Cork woman after Fr Matthews beat Marble City Hawks 48-43.
Two big wins in a couple of months that rank right near the top of her achievements, but they still haven’t disturbed the long-standing number one moments – playing for Ireland, starting at cadet level all the way up through the underage ranks to junior women. Her older sisters Michelle and April were also hot-shots on the court and also played for Ireland.
‘I’d always say representing my country for the bones of five years was the pinnacle of my career and you can’t go higher than that in the basketball community in Ireland, but getting to captain the cup team in January was a huge,’ Kellie said.
‘Michelle and April would have played with Mercy Heights and Skibbereen Eagles, so it was a case of what they wanted to do, I wanted to do better!
‘My oldest sister Michelle played for Ireland for a number of years, April also played, so it was a natural progression for me to follow them.
‘We would all have won a couple of cup titles at school with Mercy Heights.
‘There was a basketball court down in Castletownshend. We lived there during the summers from eight in the morning until 11 at night, playing basketball, soccer, catch, anything at all.
‘There were a lot of young people in the village at the time, it was a haven for craic and mischief and every type of sport.
‘Looking back I didn’t realise the magnitude of what we had achieved, three sisters representing their country. It was a huge proud time for my parents.’
This Christmas Day will be spent at home in Castletownshend, her parents Colm and Margaret the hosts, as Kellie’s husband Paul prepares for his first Christmas in West Cork; that’s a great present all on its own.
Paul, who also plays with Fr Matthews, already knows that west is best. He ventured west to find the woman of his dreams, meeting Kellie through a mutual friend when they both ran the Bantry half marathon many years ago, and he was back in West Cork for her Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star monthly award presentation.
It was Paul who encouraged Kellie, just back home after a stint in Australia, to get back into basketball.
‘That was nearly four and a half years ago so he’s taking full credit for all of this!’ Kellie laughed.
These days, she’s enjoying life outside of basketball for a while. She’ll mull over her decision next year again. But for now, it’s all about family and Christmas.