Former Castlerea Community School PE teacher, Joe Henry, is a legend wherever he goes. He has won 23 Mayo Senior Hurling titles with Tooreen and one Mayo Senior Football title with Shamrocks in 1977, which he believes is a national record. He has also won three Railway Cup medals and two National Hurling League titles. He was also part of two All Star trips to America in the 1970s.
The Mayo hurling star took charge of ladies’ football and camogie teams in Castlerea in his early years at the school but is now probably best known for his expertise on the basketball court. He has guided Castlerea Community School to the very peak of All-Ireland schools basketball on 15 occasions.
Joe, who recently retired from teaching, is married to former Roscommon camogie star, Martina Waldron, and they have three children: Laura, Joseph and Michael.
When he first arrived in Castlerea he enjoyed county provincial success with local camogie club St. Anne’s, for whom his wife Martina was a player. It was later that he came to be involved in the school basketball teams.
“I think our biggest achievements were in camogie, even though we didn’t win any All-Irelands. A lot of the players would never have played until they came into secondary school and we reached a Connacht Schools Final in the late ‘80s. It was great to get the team to that level.
“We won an All-Ireland Ladies Football title in 1989 as well, and we were the first team in Connacht to win a senior title in the ladies’ ‘A’ division,” he said before adding that between coaching and playing he has a remarkable total of 23 All-Ireland titles in four different sports.
“Hurling would be number one of course! It’s only when I came to Castlerea and was lucky enough to get the PE teaching job that I got into the basketball.
“There was a tradition of basketball at the school before I came along so I decided that I had to learn something about it. I started going down to Killala and Ballina to see Ballina playing in the national league. You were watching lads like Deora Marsh and Liam McHale and all the Americans. If you weren’t there an hour before tip-off you wouldn’t get in the door, it was huge in the ‘80s!”
Joe quickly fell in love with the game and dedicated his free time to learning everything he could about it.
“I went off to Dungarvan seven years in a row doing coaching courses and was learning about the game. I started to have a little bit of success with teams in the school and it carried on from there,” he said.
Castlerea Community School would go on to win a total of fifteen All-Ireland titles in Joe’s time, with their zenith arriving in 2017 when they clinched three national titles and a National Basketball Award.
“There’s a great interest in the sport here and we’ve had players represent Ireland over the years too. I’m retired as you know but I’m still going into the school coaching, I couldn’t leave it. The bug is there and you have to keep going,” he said.
While committed coaches and players are vital, Joe believes that facilities such as The Hub in Castlerea have also encouraged the development of senior basketball in the town as well as other sports.
“We’re lucky to have The Hub here in Castlerea. It’s absolutely brilliant. It has great facilities for the boxing and there are other sports there too such as badminton, indoor soccer and Gaelic football. We’ve got really good facilities in Castlerea and it’s good to see them being used,” he said.
As for Castlerea basketball, Joe is looking forward to seeing the recent success continuing long into the future and still enjoys working with future basketball stars at the school.