Noonan Confirms End Of Season Retirement
Noonan Confirms End Of Season Retirement
- Feb 09,2016
Ger Noonan has confirmed that he’ll step down as player-coach of BFG Neptune at the end of the season, bringing to an end a 15-year career at the highest level of Irish basketball. Last Saturday’s victory at Neptune Stadium was his last on his home court.
“From eight years of age, Neptune was the only place to go,” he said. “Aside from the bingo on a Tuesday, we used live there. It was like an open youth club. It kept you out of trouble and my friends would tell you the same. Where I grew up, it would have been very easy to get involved in drugs or stealing cars but my mother knew we were looked after.”
The young point guard’s time was well spent. He was part of Tony O’Connell’s U12 side that went to a European club final and crowned his underage career with a Junior National Cup in 2001. Stephen McCarthy’s departure to play professionally for Manchester Giants accelerated his promotion to the senior ranks.
“My first Super League game was against Star of the Sea and I was told to go out and stop Adrian Fulton. I just laughed. I was this lad from the North side of Cork playing against a guy who I’d been watching tear the league apart. Very much thrown in at the deep end.”
Not a bother on him. Four seasons soon followed playing Super League in Kerry. The ‘Unstoppable’ Noonan shot 47 points in a Killarney Town Premier Mens Basketball League final and he caught the eye of his future wife Jodie along the way.
Once home, Neptune ended a 21-year National Cup drought in 2013. Noonan was named MVP in an 85-65 win over defending Champions UL Eagles. A couple of weeks later he was lining out in the green jersey as an Irish side beat England on their own court. “I got everything I ever wanted from basketball in the space of four weeks,” he said.
For a player who was never capped at underage level, wearing the green jersey meant an awful lot. “It was a new experience. You’re teaming up with players you’re playing against every week. Shane Coughlan had broken my heart enough times going back we wouldn’t even be talking to each other. We’d be friends now.”
Most precious of all was winning silverware for Neptune on the anniversary of his best friend’s passing. On the day of Emmet Neville’s funeral in 2003, Ger presented his U19 National Cup winners medal to the grieving family. 10 years on, he had a new Cup medal around his neck in memory of his former club mate.
“I’d always wanted to do something for him. It just took a lot longer than expected. Neptune dedicated the 2003 league win to him but I was in Killarney at the time. I’d played in 11 semi-finals and a league final and lost each one up to that. To be voted Player of the Year topped it.”
It was time to start thinking about hanging up the basketball boots. “The ideal situation would have been to walk away after the cup and playing for Ireland. Then the opportunity arose to coach the club and when the turmoil broke I didn’t want to turn my back.”
Noonan adapted his game as ‘Father Time’ had more of an influence on his career. “If you told me back then I’d be playing to 34 and still be putting numbers up I’d have laughed. But I’d have laughed if you told me I’d have four kids too. There’s not many fellas like that still on the go.”
Ger leaves the club with renewed optimism after historic Hula Hoops National Cup wins at both U18 and U20 level.
“Of course the future is bright but it’s about getting players ready and keeping team together. I don’t think we’ll be back next year as it’s too much pressure to put on 16 and 17 year olds but the club is going in the right direction.”
The people who have inspired him to keep playing for the last few years are now his reason to stop.
“My wife and kids. I met Jodie through basketball and she has had a lot to put up with. She’s my biggest fan and my biggest critic. I want to thank her for making me a better player and a better person. Sean [His seven year old son] is starting in the Neptune academy now. They’ll find their love for the sport and when they want to get better is when they’ll come to me their mother and me. I won’t be sending them out the back to hit 600 jump shots. Once they’re happy, I’m happy and they’ll get to see a lot more from me at the weekends.
Just not yet. Four games left and each one will be a last time for everything, including once last hurrah against the archrivals.
“Demons down the ‘Dyke in two weeks time. But it’s just about enjoying myself at this stage.”