"I was around the place like a Jack Russell, snapping at all the big guys"
"I can score 20 points if I want to, but that's not my desire" - Dennis Rodman.
Unlike the majority of NBA icons, Dennis Rodman's career wasn't based on running up big scores or ruling the stats sheets. Rodman, as seen in The Last Dance documentary, was a unique and often controversial character but on the court, he was a winner, a player who would do anything for his team to win.
For Kerry, Kieran Donaghy played the Dennis Rodman role. Selflessly, the star would harass the opposition, he'd bravely hurl his body into dangerous situations and he'd do all of that before winning the ball and setting up some gold carat forward like Colm Cooper or even David Clifford for the score.
And this was the game Donaghy loved.
The competitive similarities between the Kerryman and 'the worm' don't end there with Donaghy admitting that he'd gain just as much satisfaction from winning rebounds as he would from scoring points on the basketball court.
It’s well known I was a basketballer on the football pitch. Michael Jordan was my role model early on. I was able to see something in him that, I was wondering what was happening, which was him floating through the air, going up and under guys, finishing on the other side of the basket. It was stuff I hadn’t really seen before. That sparked the imagination and it got me practicing and got me going," said the Star.
"But I think Rodman, when he came into the Bulls team, my fascination was...the reason I say I sometimes model my game on him is because I don’t care about scoring. I never cared about scoring in either code. If I had 20 points in a game, or no points, you wouldn’t know it in me afterwards. I was all about the winning and losing and I think Rodman was very like that.
"Rodman was a guy who just wanted to help his team and he had to figure out ways to do that. He knew he wasn’t the most gifted basketballer, like I know I’m not the most gifted basketballer or footballer. My will-to-win and competitive edge combined, and the fact I’m willing to go beyond the line of what people are comfortable going to in order to try and win a game, I’ll do that to help my team win..."
While Donaghy's illustrious list of achievements in the green and gold are well known, he's also had his fair share of success on the court since captaining Ireland at under-15 level.
"I was the smallest player of the Irish basketball team when I was captain aged 15. Why was I the captain? Because I was around the place like a Jack Russell, snapping at all the big guys. Mark Mulholland from Belfast, who I still know today, I’d say them fellas looked at me as a pain in the hole when I was a young fella. I was barking at them, I demanded from them and they listened.
"No-one ever told me to go away. I wasn’t the best player in the team, but I think they just recognised I wanted to win and improve."
Indeed, the Tralee man has won the National Cup, the Super League and numerous individual awards playing basketball.
"On the course or on the pitch, and I feel I have to play on the edge and that is where the Rodman comparisons come in. And the rebounding. I love rebounding. I like the momentum it gives you, especially an offensive rebound, so I go flying in for these rebounds and people think I’m half-mad, but I’ll take 10 chances on the fact I might get one that will give us two points. If we win that game by a point, everybody is talking about the American player that got 33 points, or the Irish fella that got 28 points, but I’m thinking about the one offensive rebound I got. In my own head, I’m happy in my own head knowing that one rebound helped. That’s the way I went about it and if I won 20 rebounds, I’d be happier again, knowing I had given my team a better chance..."
On the court and on the field, Donaghy is still in the thick of it at 37 having scored a goal for Austin Stacks in their Kerry first round clash last against Dingle last weekend. While the basketball season was put on hold due to the corona-virus pandemic, he'll be eager to get going again next year.
EBS ambassador and Tralee Warriors basketball star, Kieran Donaghy, pictured at the launch of the 2020 Federation of Irish Sport Volunteers in Sport Awards supported by EBS. The awards will see EBS and the Federation of Irish Sport hero the work of volunteers from around the country, who go above and beyond every day to ensure that sport takes place in Ireland.