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Darren O'Neill relishing the challenge of leading his treble winners to even more success

By David Kelly

Darren O'Neill is back coaching at the highest level with the task of maintaining Dublin side Killester Basketball Club's phenomenal success over the past five years.

"They only won the treble last year, so no pressure there," quipped O'Neill as he mused on the task he faces as the Superleague tips off this weekend.

The fixture list could hardly have drawn up a more intriguing opener as ex-Belfast Star boss O'Neill will be up against his former players this Saturday night in Dublin.

For O'Neill the chance to coach the reigning champions was too good to turn down - even though they have lost many of their top stars for the defence of their title.

O'Neill said: "Paddy Kelly is out for a year because he is doing a Masters, Isaac Westbrookes and Michael Goy have gone to the Dublin Business School and are playing for their new side Dublin Thunder, John Behan is on a World tour with his wife and Pete Madsen has taken a year out.

"I knew this when I got the call to coach the club and to be honest it was actually one of the reasons I took up the challenge of coaching the club because I knew it was going to be tough and also I knew that the new guys and those left at the club would be hungry and eager to show that they can be successful.

"It's a big task for me but after two years away from the sport after leaving Star I felt that I was ready for a new test and when you take up the reins at the champions you know it is going to be a very exciting challenge ahead."

Killester's success over the past five years has been quite extraordinary and it came as a shock to everyone in the sport when they axed coach Mark Keenan, who had been at the helm for those glory years.

O'Neill said: "I felt sorry for Mark, he's a great coach and he's a good friend and I know how hurt he was when he was told they were letting him go. He has moved on to Limerick and I'm sure that they will be a threat when it comes to the title."

The Belfast man is now focused on this Saturday night when the Killester fans will have their first sight of a side they hope can retain the Superleague crown.

"Playing Star is always special and to be honest if I was not coaching Killester then I would be cheering on Star. I will always have a close affinity with the club," he added.

"It's funny how the fixtures have come out but I hope that we can get off to a good start. When I managed Marian and Queen's I always had a pretty good record against Star and hopefully that can continue.

"I have to say that Star have brought in two top players in Paul Cummings and their American Tyson Johnson and this year I really believe they will be fighting hard for the Northern Conference and the title. It's going to be an exciting year."

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