Doc­u­men­tary turns spot­light on the man from Tal­la­has­see


Wicklow People (West Edition) - - NEWS - WRITES SI­MON BOURKE

THE life and times of one of Ire­land’s for­got­ten sport­ing icons has been doc­u­mented in a new fea­ture for RTÉ Ra­dio 1.

To­day Ed Ran­dolph is best known as the fa­ther of in­ter­na­tional goal­keeper Dar­ren, but the Florida-na­tive has had a sto­ried sport­ing ca­reer of his own, one which con­tin­ues as he nears his 60th birth­day.

The highs and lows of that ca­reer, and how he came to live in Bray with wife Ann, is re­told in ‘The Man from Tal­la­has­see’, a ra­dio doc­u­men­tary pro­duced by Philip Gal­lagher and Tim Des­mond.

One of the first Amer­i­can bas­ket­ballers to play in Ire­land, Ed’s story be­gan in seg­re­gated Amer­ica, in a run-down part of Tal­la­has­see. Like so many be­fore him and so many since, Ed used his sport­ing prow­ess to es­cape poverty, at­tain­ing a schol­ar­ship to at­tend col­lege in Rhode Is­land.

Once there, he set a scor­ing record which stood for 35 years – enough to earn him tri­als with NBA team the At­lanta Hawks. How­ever, with com­pe­ti­tion for places fierce, the young Florid­ian was forced to move else­where, namely the nascent Ir­ish Bas­ket­ball League.

With two over­seas play­ers per­mit­ted for each team, coaches through­out the coun­try be­gan re­cruit­ing top Amer­i­can play­ers, lead­ing to an ex­plo­sion in pop­u­lar­ity for a sport which had pre­vi­ously been on the mar­gins.

Ed signed with Sport­ing Belfast in 1982, leav­ing the States for the first time for a new life in North­ern Ire­land. Ar­riv­ing at the height of ‘The Trou­bles’ his main con­cern, as a 6ft 5in black man, was be­ing mis­taken for a Bri­tish soldier.

‘We al­ways made sure we were high-fiv­ing and speak­ing re­ally loud be­ing typ­i­cal Amer­i­cans,’ Ed re­calls in the doc­u­men­tary.

Fur­ther spells in Clare, Gal­way and Dublin fol­lowed be­fore Ed fi­nally found success with Killester, land­ing the first sil­ver­ware of his ca­reer in his for­ties. By this time, Ed had moved to Bray with wife Ann, whom he had met while play­ing for En­nis­ti­mon in County Clare.

‘Mixed re­la­tion­ships were rare in 1980s Ire­land, it was tricky at the time be­cause there weren’t many black people in Ire­land,’ says Ann. ‘The first time Ed came to my house my mother made him boxty, a tra­di­tional dish which was her favourite thing to cook. And Ed put jam on it. At the time my mother bit her lip but once he’d left she asked, “how could he put a sweet thing on that?” But they welcomed him, and we still talk about that in­ci­dent to this day.’

As his ca­reer be­gan to wind down Ed be­gan coach­ing in the Bray area, bring­ing his sons Dar­ren and Neil along to many of his ses­sions. And it was bas­ket­ball which first en­tranced the fu­ture Ire­land num­ber one.

‘When I was younger, any­where he went, I wanted to be there. So when he was play­ing bas­ket­ball, I was al­ways there bounc­ing a bas­ket­ball some­where in the back­ground or run­ning round the gym,’ Dar­ren says. ‘He never pushed me to bas­ket­ball or foot­ball, he just let me do what I wanted to do. When I got to about 14, 15, I thought maybe I’ve got a bet­ter chance in foot­ball than bas­ket­ball so I made the change. Luck­ily foot­ball’s work­ing out for me at the minute.’

The doc­u­men­tary, which is now avail­able to lis­ten to as a pod­cast, has been well-re­ceived since first air­ing, with Ed’s fam­ily in the States among those to give it their seal of approval.

And one of its mak­ers, Philip Gal­lagher, be­lieves it tran­scends the world of sport, of­fer­ing a snap­shot into a unique time in Ir­ish so­ci­ety.

‘We’re far more mul­ti­cul­tural now. Back then, it wasn’t just that we didn’t have black people in this coun­try, we didn’t even re­ally see them on tele­vi­sion,’ said Philip, who also lives in Bray. ‘But for Ed it was a case of be­ing very much made to feel welcomed. Ire­land doesn’t have a his­tory of right-wing facism, we’re not a racist coun­try, by and large people like Ed were ac­cepted into their com­mu­ni­ties. Then again, he wasn’t your av­er­age im­mi­grant, he was a spe­cial talent,’ Philip said.

Unlike many of his con­tem­po­raries, who re­turned to their home­land upon finishing their play­ing days in Ire­land, Ed has laid down roots in his adopted coun­try, ce­ment­ing a legacy for both him­self and his fam­ily.

‘His legacy is twofold: he was a ma­jor part of a short-lived unique time in Ire­land with the rise of our bas­ket­ball league; but his coach­ing role has also left a huge legacy,’ said Philip.

‘He’s coached a lot of schools and camps through­out the coun­try. You talk to any­one in Ire­land about bas­ket­ball and they’ll know about Ed – not just as a player but also as a coach. And I have no doubt his coach­ing abil­ity has helped Dar­ren, both phys­i­cally and men­tally,’ Philip said.


Ed Ran­dolph with his wife Ann.

(Clockwise from above) Ed in ac­tion with Killester in 2001; Coach­ing Muck­ross Park School in 2015; tak­ing part in a masters ex­hi­bi­tion game in 2018; and in his Killester kit in 2001.

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