Ahead of next weekend’s National League opener, Adam Moynihan chats to Scotts Lakers head coach Shane McCarthy about the season ahead

 

The season tips off next weekend away to the Limerick Celtics. What’s the mood like in the camp?

It’s a mood of excitement at the moment. The boys are getting sick of looking at each other at training so they’re looking forward to seeing someone else on the court against them. They’re all excited.

 

The club have made a number of new signings. Are you happy with the business you’ve done over the summer?

Yeah, really happy. Victor Martínez, our Spanish guy, is only 20 and the fans are going to love him. He’s a serious talent. He comes from a professional background in Spain. Toby (Christensen) picked up a knock in his third session with us but he has pedigree. He had seven years in the States. And Aaron (Jackson) is talented, he’s exciting and he’s tough. I think he’s going to be a fan favourite.

 

Aaron has just arrived from the States, is that right?

He only got into the country last Friday morning. He travelled for 26 or 27 hours and we told him he didn’t need to train Friday evening, but he trained. He was anxious to get started.

 

Which local players are likely to feature this season?

We obviously have Mark Greene. I played with him last season and he really shocked me; I didn’t think he was as good as he is! Andy Fitzgerald is big and he’s going to have a major role to play. Séamus Brosnan is tough and he’ll have a huge role as well.

 

You’ve also brought in a couple of Irish players…

Yeah we’ve signed Carlton Cuff from Blue Demons. He was one of the best defenders in the Super League so he’s going to bring that defensive mindset down to Killarney. Brian O’Neill is another one. I played with Brian for years and he’s a deadeye three-point shooter. We played a preseason game last week and it was Brian’s first game in 12 months. He had 18 points, all threes.

We’re a lot deeper this year than we were last year.

 

As you mentioned there, you were playing up until last season. Is this your first job as a head coach?

Yeah, it’s my first time as a head coach – it’s my first year not playing at all. I was adamant that I just wanted to coach this year. I’ve been an assistant in the Super League with Blue Demons and I was assistant player/coach last year. So look, I’m excited about it.

 

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to coaching a team at this level?

Last year you just had to make sure you got into the playoffs. This year it’s an all-out league (with the top two from each conference making the semi-finals) so literally every game is going to be a cup final for me. We won’t look beyond the next game.

Another thing is keeping everyone happy and healthy because we have a couple of double-header weekends. One weekend we play Ballincollig at 4pm in Cork and we play Neptune 23 hours later at home in Killarney. We’ve got to keep guys fresh and that’s going to be a challenge.

 

What were the Lakers’ strengths and weaknesses last season?

Last year, Cormac (O’Donoghue) did a phenomenal job. I’d like to say that. Seán O’Brien, our American, was a super, super player but this year we’ll have Aaron who can play the point and also post up and do a bit of everything.

Defensively last year we gave up way too many points. You’re not going to win anything at this level giving up 80 or 90 points against bad teams. I thought that was our biggest weakness. We played Ballincollig at home and scored 104 points, and lost. You can’t do that.

 

What style of play will your Lakers be adopting?

This year, with the depth we have, we’re going to push the ball at every opportunity. We’re going to run, run, run. I’d be quite happy if we go through a whole game and don’t run a play. And defensively we’re going to be in people’s faces. They’re going to come out of the game knowing that they’ve played us.

I think Carlton is going to bring a lot of that, and Aaron as well. He plays really tough.

 

Do you think the club is in good shape generally speaking?

St Paul’s have 450 kids playing juvenile. There’s not a club in the country that has that amount of players, I would say. We play in the Aura, which is one of the best arenas in the country. We get the biggest crowds at any Super League or National League games. St Paul’s are in such a good place it’s ridiculous. The club is in a massive, massive position and we just have to build on it now.

 

Are there any young players ready to make the breakthrough?

Jamie O’Sullivan is on our panel this year and I think Killarney has a superstar on its hands if he realises how good he is. I’m really tough on Jamie but I’m tough because I know he can be a serious player. He’s 6’4” at 16 years of age. He’s holding his own at training with pros. In my eyes, he should be on Irish panels.

 

How big a role can the supporters play this season?

I was blown away by the crowds last season. They were phenomenal. Already this season, the backing from the fans and the sponsors has been great and I want to thank them for that. But it’s the team’s job to keep the fans happy. We have to put on a show and make sure that we’re winning. I think Aaron is going to be really exciting for the team in that regard. He’ll bring that bounce.

 

What are your goals for the year? Is promotion to the Super League a realistic aim?

This year we’re going after the cups and we’re going after the league. The main thing is that we’re going all out for promotion. This club should be in the Super League. That’s the goal.

 

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Pic: Eamonn Keogh.