Updated: Nov 25, 2021
When the World University Games trials happened in 1993, those who had been around the Irish team for several years knew that things had changed instantly and a whole new era had started for Ireland. A big reason for that dramatic change was the arrival of Alan Tomidy. In retrospect, what was expected of Tomidy and what he managed to deliver for Ireland at a young age is ridiculous. Ireland had always been on the lookout for a big man that could help them survive in the paint, Tomidy not only allowed Ireland to survive, but he even dominated in the key giving the Irish team a genuine focal point of their offense and the perfect balance to Frank Powell who could space the floor and give Alan the room to manoeuvre inside.
Basketball fans in Ireland are a lot more knowledgeable in 2020 than they ever were before. In the early 90s, knowledge of the NBA was limited to a few select games on Channel 4 and well worn NBA VHS tapes that had been passed around. If you asked a casual fan about the NCAA they could name some of the bigger schools but it was very unlikely they had ever seen a game. It wouldn’t be until around 2003 when the North American Sports Network arrived in Ireland that Irish fans became knowledgeable about college basketball beyond a superficial level. Despite the proximity to Europe, knowledge of the European game and the Euroleague was even slower and is something that has only really progressed in the last five to ten years. As a result, when Alan Tomidy appeared for Ireland he did so without much context of who he was, what level he was playing at and eventually where his career could take him. This problem would define much of the Irish American era as casual fans had no idea just how good some of the players were that lined out for Ireland. If he played out an identical career in 2020, people would rave about his achievements and yet in the memories of Irish fans of the Irish teams, he can sometimes be overlooked as one of the most important and dominant recruits Enda Byrt ever uncovered.
Alan was born in New York to an Irish born mother from Youghal in County Cork.
In the same New York leagues that John O’Donnell had played in years earlier, Tomidy developed into a very good high school basketball player, helping him earn a scholarship to play for Marist in the Northeast Conference. When Alan arrived on campus in 1992, Marist was searching for a replacement for their last big man with international connections, Rik Smits. The 7’4 dunking dutchman had an incredible career for Marist and had earned the second overall pick in the NBA draft in 1988. Smits was also familiar for Irish players as he had been on the Dutch Junior Men’s team that narrowly beat Ireland in 1984.
Throughout his career in Marist, Tomidy developed a reputation as a rebounder and shot-blocker but he could also contribute on the offensive end with his ability to score. In the 1995-96 season, Tomidy’s senior year, he became the only player in school history to ever average a double-double for an entire season as he averaged 16.8 points a game to go along with 11.3 rebounds. He also set school records for total rebounds, blocks per game and rebounds per game all in that same season. He eventually finished his college career with incredible totals of 1,508 points, 838 rebounds and 267 blocked shots. Over 20 years after graduating he remained in the top 10 for 10 different statistical categories for the school. It wasn’t all individual either for him as in his senior year he helped Marist earn their first-ever NIT bid. Unfortunately, the Red Foxes would lose out to a Rhode Island team featuring future NBA players Tyson Wheeler and Cutino Mobley.
Playing for Ireland
Like some of the other early Irish American’s who represented Ireland, Tomidy began playing while he was still in college. At a tournament in New York in 1993, a coach (who had played in Ireland) heard Alan’s mother speaking to him. Despite having emigrated from Youghal in County Cork more than thirty years earlier, her Irish accent was still very noticeable. The coach told Alan and his mother that there was an upcoming trial for the Irish team and that he would be eligible to get citizenship. Tomidy went along and made the World University Games team. The team was the introduction to the Irish team of Alan, Pat Burke, Dan Callahan and John O’Connell and was a turning point for Ireland as they suddenly had several big men with future pro potential.
Having developed with the Irish team, Tomidy’s sophomore year in college saw him average 14.8 points and 7.5 rebounds and the big man was ready for a big step up already. Enda Byrt placed his trust in the 20-year-old New Yorker and called him up for the Promotions Cup in Dublin. Despite Enda not being there, Tomidy repaid the faith shown in him and delivered a masterful 24 point 12 rebound performance to get the team to the final. Ireland had a dominant force in the paint and in the final Cyprus were so focused on stopping him that it opened up the perimeter for sharpshooters like Gareth Maguire and Frank Powell. With no Tomidy, there was likely no Promotions Cup win. More so than any other stage in his international career, the achievement sticks with Tomidy to this day “When we won the Promotions Cup that was the first time Ireland ever won anything in basketball. That’s pretty cool that can’t be taken away from you, that’s a really cool moment in time. If you go through it you’re just trying to win the tournament you are not looking at it as a historic moment when you’re doing it. Afterwards, you are like oh that’s cool but again it doesn’t register until you are older. I remember the feeling of winning that damn thing and it was just awesome….. running around with the cup, that was one hell of an after-party too, it was one moment I’ll definitely never forget”.
Over the next couple of years, Tomidy led Ireland in qualifying campaigns that often ended in near misses. He averaged over 16 a game in every campaign and peaked at 19 points and 9.7 rebounds in the 1997 qualifiers that saw Ireland narrowly miss the semi-final round. That final campaign was in Dublin and it left the Irish crowd wanting more from the young star who they had seen grow in front of their eyes over the previous three years in particular.
Unfortunately for the Irish fans, there would be no more in the Irish jersey as Tomidy turned his focus on his professional club career instead.
Alan had one of the most impressive professional careers of any players that ever represented Ireland. As he developed in Serie A playing against top-level talent he impressed having seasons that included averaging over 15 points a game for Calabria. His top professional achievement came playing in the famous colours of Benneton Treviso. In the 2000-01 campaign he scored 8.4 a game in Serie A and also added 5.8 points a game playing in the Euroleague. Unfortunately, this was a time before Euroleague highlights were so readily available in Ireland, so fans didn’t even realise what they were missing. Ireland did attempt to try and recall Tomidy as he was about to start his Bennetton career but Alan felt the risk was just too high for him at the time. “I was just more focused on my club career at that point, I didn’t want to risk injury….I know the one year they wanted me to play I was coming up for a big contract year when I signed for Benneton and I didn’t want to get hurt. I had a good-sized contract come and I finally made a Euroleague team and I just didn’t want to take the risk”.
It’s hard to imagine what Irish basketball Twitter would have been like if it existed in 2001. At the end of the Serie A season Treviso went head to head with Bologna for the Serie A title. Tomidy gave a good account of himself with six points in twelve minutes of play, but all eyes would have been on his opponent, as Manu Ginobili was close to the end of his Italian career. He had been drafted in 1999 by the Spurs but would stay in Italy until the end of the 2002 season. Coming into the final game, Ginobili had won the Euroleague MVP just a month earlier as Bologna won the title and now he was matching up with Tomidy. Ginobili scored 16 and added five assists in the win in what was a moment of basketball history lost on most Irish fans who had packed the Arena in 1994 for the Promotions Cup or 1997 for the Qualifiers.
Post Playing Career
Alan entered the finance world after finishing his playing career and he currently works as a Commercial Services Director for a New York Credit Union.
Ultimately, Tomidy’s career came at a stage that was too early for major attention from Irish fans. Instead, he played out an excellent career at the top level of European basketball and did so without getting the recognition that he deserved. His Irish career showed huge potential but it also sadly leaves major question marks around what-ifs. Tomidy never played on a squad alongside Larranaga and Marty Conlon, let alone Pat Burke who he is one year younger than. Another 6’10 athlete with Euroleague experience could have been the missing link in Ireland making a major push to the top level of European basketball. Looking back years later Tomidy wonders himself about that missed opportunity “looking back on it now I wish I probably would have played just cause it was such a great time with such a great group of people but at that time it wasn’t on my radar screen”.
For Ireland, Tomidy was a valuable asset but also a tough lesson into the harsh realities of professional basketball. Enda Byrt’s recruitment had worked so well that he now had top-quality talents available to him. With the Bosman ruling, those same players became capable of commanding huge salaries in Europe with top Euroleague clubs. Ireland soon learned that we were a small pawn in a major game in Europe and over the next decade, as the country was often powerless in securing their best available talent.
Despite the premature ending to his Irish career, Tomidy made a huge impact and he sums up his time as a young player for Ireland by saying “We had no idea what was going on we just played. It was an amazing experience and it was very cool but we just wanted to play. I think all the guys just really liked to play and were thrilled to get out there. We all had obviously heavy Irish backgrounds growing up because of our lineage our parents, our grandparents and we were just thrilled to be playing for Ireland. To play on that stage is such an honour and something I look back on with such pride and such a cool experience“.