There are currently three teams called the Cardiff Celts in the ‘Diff. One plays volleyball, another plays korfball, while the third have three Great Britain internationals, and play in a Great Britain National League – in which they are unbeaten this season.
The Cardiff Celts Wheelchair Basketball club, formerly the Cardiff Bay Tigers, have been Wales’s premier wheelchair basketball team since their formation in 2002. Prior to this, there were no wheelchair basketball teams in Cardiff meaning talented players had to ply their trade in either London or Bristol – or further afield.
In 2006 the Celts entered a team into the Great Britain National League for the first time and moved from their Cardiff Bay home to Trowbridge – where they still train today. In a landmark year for the Celts, they also recruited Great Britain Paralympian Caroline Matthews, who now plays and coaches the team. Matthews recalls the move fondly: “I left my London club to support and play for the Cardiff Celts in 2006. I thought, ‘at last, there was a competitive club on my door step and I could stop wearing grooves up and down the M4.’ I haven’t looked back since.”
In 2007 the Celts won the Great Britain Wheelchair Basketball Association’s “Best Performing New Club Award”, with club coach Holly Hinchley also commended with a Sports Council for Wales’ Coach of the Year award.
The Celts have consistently fielded two teams each season since 2006, with both playing in national leagues – in 2011-12 and 2012-13 the Celts competed in Divisions 1 and 2. It has, however, not been plain sailing for the Celts. Matthews said: “The CELTS were promoted from Division 3 to Division 2 after their first year and it wasn’t long until we broke into Division 1. Unfortunately that promotion coincided with the loss of several vital players (including Phil Pratt, who had moved to Loughborough) which resulted in two very challenging seasons in Division 1. But, the CELTS stuck together like the true family they are and this is our first season back in Division 2.”
In their current campaign the Celts are flourishing, having won all four of their league fixtures. Matthews said: “Our goal is to make it to the play-offs this season and win promotion back to Division 1 next year. We have been very fortunate in re-signing Phil Pratt this year. He has matured as a true international talent over the past few seasons and we are very lucky to have him in our team. Harri Jenkins, who won a Gold Medal for the GB under 22’s in the European Championships this year, has also been excellent.”
“All of the CELTS players who fought through the last two difficult seasons in Division 1 have improved enormously. After playing against much stronger teams for the past two years, we are now a stronger unit.”
“Longer term, I would like to see the CELTS progress to the point where we could support a competitive Premier League team – which is the division above Division 1.”
The Celts train three times a week: Tuesdays at the St Cenydd Lesure Centre in Caerphilly, Thursdays at Cardiff and Vale College, Trowbridge Campus and Saturdays at the Talybont Sports Centre.
For more information on the Cardiff Celts and wheelchair basketball, visit http://www.cardiffwheelchairbasketball.co.uk/ or follow @CeltsWBC