Noonan Confirms End Of Season Retirement
February 09, 2016
Ger Noonan has confirmed that heâll 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 Saturdayâs victory at Neptune Stadium was his last on his home court.
âFrom eight years of age, Neptune was the only place to go,â he said. âAside 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.â
The young point guardâs time was well spent. He was part of Tony OâConnellâs U12 side that went to a European club final and crowned his underage career with a Junior National Cup in 2001. Stephen McCarthyâs departure to play professionally for Manchester Giants accelerated his promotion to the senior ranks.
âMy 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 Iâd been watching tear the league apart. Very much thrown in at the deep end.â
Not a bother on him. Four seasons soon followed playing Super League in Kerry. The âUnstoppableâ 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. âI got everything I ever wanted from basketball in the space of four weeks,â he said.
For a player who was never capped at underage level, wearing the green jersey meant an awful lot. âIt was a new experience. Youâre teaming up with players youâre playing against every week. Shane Coughlan had broken my heart enough times going back we wouldnât even be talking to each other. Weâd be friends now.â
Most precious of all was winning silverware for Neptune on the anniversary of his best friendâs passing. On the day of Emmet Nevilleâs 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.
âIâd 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. Iâd 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.â
It was time to start thinking about hanging up the basketball boots. âThe 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 didnât want to turn my back.â
Noonan adapted his game as âFather Timeâ had more of an influence on his career. âIf you told me back then Iâd be playing to 34 and still be putting numbers up Iâd have laughed. But Iâd have laughed if you told me Iâd have four kids too. Thereâs not many fellas like that still on the go.â
Ger leaves the club with renewed optimism after historic Hula Hoops National Cup wins at both U18 and U20 level.
âOf course the future is bright but itâs about getting players ready and keeping team together. I donât think weâll be back next year as itâs too much pressure to put on 16 and 17 year olds but the club is going in the right direction.â
The people who have inspired him to keep playing for the last few years are now his reason to stop.
âMy wife and kids. I met Jodie through basketball and she has had a lot to put up with. Sheâs 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. Theyâll find their love for the sport and when they want to get better is when theyâll come to me their mother and me. I wonât be sending them out the back to hit 600 jump shots. Once theyâre happy, Iâm happy and theyâll 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.
âDemons down the âDyke in two weeks time. But itâs just about enjoying myself at this stage.â