By Frank Craig
St Eunan’s College basketball star Killian Gribben says that his side’s All-Ireland basketball title win was a massive achievement for the school.
The fifth year student – who hit the headlines back in 2019 when he came third over all, nationally, in the Junior Certificate Higher Level Technical Graphics examination – was named MVP in the College’s superb 78 to 52 win over Waterpark College back in January. He netted 25 points in the process.
Standing 6’7”, Gribben believes the support given to the side by its supporters on the day made all the difference as dominant third and fourth quarters eased St Eunan’s over the line.
“It was such a great experience for us all,” said Gribben as he collected the Donegal News Sports Personality of the Month award for January, in conjunction with Brian McCormick Sports & Leisure.
“We’ve always wanted to play at the National Basketball Arena and to do it in front of so many of our own supporters was brilliant. They carried us the whole way through. From the semi-final on especially, they were just buzzing. It made all the difference.
“Waterpark College didn’t take any supporters with them on the day and I’ve no doubt our crowd made the difference in the end when the game was in the melting pot. It definitely was an advantage.”
The star player admits his participation in the national final was in real doubt in the lead up to the game. However, exhaustive physio and treatment meant he was, at the last moment, able to take his place on the court.
“I sprained my ankle the week before the All-Ireland final and there was a doubt that I mightn’t be able to play. I was on crutches the Sunday before. But I managed to play the full game on the Wednesday.
“The likes of my own mum and Manny Payton especially were very good with all of that. The strapping and the looking after it. There was no chance I was going to miss that game. It was uncomfortable and sore at the time but it was definitely worth it in the end.”
Nothing split the teams at the midpoint of that All-Ireland decider. But the Letterkenny scholars, backed by their loud travelling support, jumped through the gears from that point on to ease over the line by 26 points in the end.
“We got there in the end but it was tight the whole way through,” he said. “At the start of the third quarter it was all square, 40 apiece.
“But we got some momentum going, went on a wee blitz and got some good scores on the board. It was a crucial period and it proved to be the winning of the game for us in the end.”
Gribben is also a member of the LYIT basketball squad and his achievements for St Eunan’s no doubt influenced his call up there. It’s a step up in standard but he made light work of that jump with another star display on his debut.
“I’m involved with the LYIT now as well. I made my debut down in Cork. I managed to get 16 points that day. It’s a good step up and there is so much quality.
“We’ve Manny from America and Don Uhl who has come over from Germany. They bring a different style so it’s good to look at those guys and learn. You pick up different wee things. It’s a whole new level.”
Gribben has been on the radar on the national Under 18 squad boss Paul Kelleher for some time now. He’s currently part of an extended training squad which will be trimmed over the coming months.
“I’ve been a part of that selection process since September. It’ll be cut down over the next while but I’m just hoping to make that final squad. There are a few tournaments coming up in April. There are competitions in the Netherlands, Portugal and the big tournament in Romania. We train in Dublin. I’ve another year left at this grade but it would still be great to make the final 12. It’s a fantastic experience regardless.”