Irish Basketball

  • Another piece of Irish basketball history was written this evening as the Ireland Under 18 women won their country’s first ever Division A basketball game and kept their hopes of retaining top tier status alive with a 53-52 point win over Sweden at the FIBA Under 18 Women’s European Championship Division A in Italy.

    Today’s win was not only Ireland’s first ever win at Division A, but now propels them forward to a final battle to retain their Division A status tomorrow (Sunday) in a winner-takes-all showdown against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

    Dayna Finn delivered an incredible performance to drive Ireland over the line with a whopping 22 points, and it was apt that the Mayo woman was the one with the winning basket at the death for her team.

    Indeed, it was an all-round superb team performance, with enormous contributions off the bench as well, and head coach Patrick O’Neill was still stunned after the final buzzer

    “A little bit of history was made tonight – and we’re not done yet. I’m so unbelievably proud of this team!” he said. “The effort the girls put in was phenomenal. They dug deep and showed such resilience and mental fortitude to come back and take control - and of course, to get us our first ever win at Division A. The fans were amazing, to hear the singing as soon as we stepped on court was huge.”

    It was an intense game right from the off, with scores at an absolute premium, with neither side breaking the deadlock until over four minutes had been played. Scores from Finn and Katie Williamson followed, before Maeve Phelan released a superb buzzer beater at the end of the quarter to see Ireland lead 10-8.


    An even tighter second quarter followed, as Sweden retook the lead early, and the sides matched each other score for score as the clock ticked on. Bronagh Power Cassidy brought the sides level, before a score from Niamh Masterson again gave Ireland the edge at the end of the quarter, to lead by the minimum going in at half time, 20-19.

    The third quarter continued in the same vein, with nothing separating the sides. A huge three from Annaliese Murphy helped keep Ireland’s nose in front, before four quick points from Finn and a superb finish by Maeve Ó Séaghdha sealed the advantage at 40-29 at the end of the third.

    The early exchanges of the fourth quarter saw Ireland gain more traction, with some nice shooting early on. However, comeback queens Sweden weren’t going down without a fight, and with just under five minutes to play, they suddenly had it back to a three-point game (45-42). Two minutes later, the game was all square once more, and foul trouble for the Irish saw Sweden take the lead from the free throw line with just two minutes left. Superb play from Ella McCloskey and Finn sent Ireland ahead (51-50) with 41 seconds to play and Irish fans everywhere could barely watch as the remaining seconds began to tick down.

    A steal and a lay-up by Sweden seemed to have dashed Irish hopes with 10 seconds to go, but a superb inbound from Enya Maguire found the hero of the hour, Dayna Finn, and she drove with style to the basket for that all-important winning score and the arena erupted as the full time buzzer sounded with Ireland ahead by the smallest of margins, 53-52.

    The battle is far from over for the team however as they now face a winner-takes-all clash with Bosnia and Herzegovina tomorrow afternoon. The winner will retain Division A status for another year, while the loser of the game will be relegated back to Division B.

    Over in Sarajevo meanwhile, it was another clash with Sweden for Irish fans, as the Ireland Under 16 men’s team also faced them in their third group game. There was an extra added twist to this encounter as the Sweden head coach is well-known Irish coach, Michael Bree.

    The boys in green launched a fantastic comeback in the second half, and were unlucky in the end as time ran out, and they lost out 70-73 in their third game of the FIBA Under 16 European Championships.

    Ireland had a slow start to the first quarter as Sweden took an early 8-0 lead until a foul on Rapolas Buivydas sent him to the line to get Ireland’s first score. A Cj Fulton and Eli Lenihan team-up saw Ireland close the gap, while Sweden’s aggressive defence saw them fall into early foul trouble. This suited Ireland as Buivydas, went to the free throw line once more to give Ireland their first lead of the game and they led by one at the end of the first.  

    The second quarter saw a fiery and ferocious Swedish side hit the court with an explosive start. As Ireland took their time to get back to the pace of the game, Sweden profited on every mistake, gaining scores on fast breaks and turnovers and suddenly, Ireland were facing a 10-point deficit. As Sweden began to tire, Ireland started to find holes in their defence drawing fouls to put Sweden into foul trouble once more but the Irish still trailed 28-37 at half time.

    Ireland laid everything they had on the line in the third quarter as they dug deep to close the gap. Slick shooting by Collins and Fulton saw Ireland regain their one-point lead, but the uphill battle continued as Sweden’s Oliver Cupan’s three-pointers found the net nearing the end of the quarter to push them five points ahead.


    It was an all-or-nothing final quarter, and after all the hard work Ireland had done in the third quarter, they were close to running on empty. Sweden once more exploded out onto the court, increasing their lead. Fulton was once more the answer to Ireland’s prayers as he hit a super shot and drew a foul to head straight to the line. Sweden found themselves on team fouls in the final minutes of the game and with strong defensive rebounds from Buivydas and Collins, Ireland managed to close the gap to just six points. Back-to-back shots from Fulton followed by a score from Lenihan saw Ireland in the lead with just one minute to go. Unfortunately, Sweden’s slick shooter Cupan found the net with a crucial three-pointer to see them run out 70-73 winners.

      

  • A late fourth quarter comeback by the Ireland Under 18 women’s team was just not enough for the squad to maintain their Division A status this afternoon, as they lost out 63-71 to Bosnia and Herzegovina at the FIBA Under 18 European Championship Division A.

    Coming into today’s game off the back of a massive win against Sweden yesterday, Ireland knew that it was going to be a tough challenge with a long and physical Bosnia side waiting in the wings. A superb closing ten minutes from the girls in green just couldn’t get them over the line as time was against them, and the buzzer sounded to end Ireland’s journey in Division A. 

    A massive opening quarter from the Irish saw huge scores from Dayna Finn, Enya Maguire and Ella McCloskey, before Katie Williamson edged Ireland ahead with a well-taken jump shot. A huge score from Maeve Ó Séaghdha tied the game up at the end of the quarter, 20-20.

    A fast-paced and intense second quarter followed, with Finn and Ó Séaghdha once more on target from distance, while big defence from Annaliese Murphy and Niamh Masterson – the latter also netting a superb three pointer - kept the Bosnia threat in check. Huge scoring from Bosnia’s Ksenija Mitric and Andeli Gligic though edged them ahead at the half time buzzer to lead 35-43.

    The third quarter is where things started to unravel for the Irish, as Bosnia started the period in blistering fashion, opening up a 35-50 point lead within the opening minutes. Every shot they took dropped for them, while Ireland struggled to get a score to fall, and the tough press forced them into turnovers and mistakes, to see Bosnia outscore them 4-17 in the ten minute period, to lead 39-60 going into the last.

    There was a mountain to climb going into the fourth quarter, and this was where Ireland truly showed their grit. Led on the comeback by a determined Bronagh Power Cassidy, Ireland slowly began to chip away at the margin. Huge shooting from Enya Maguire began to close the gap, as McCloskey, Maeve Phelan and Nicole Clancy all worked tirelessly on defence. Back to within eight points with just over a minute to play, Ireland certainly had the belief they could finish it through, and a massive three-pointer from Maguire with just 58 seconds to play suddenly made it a five-point game.

    Foul trouble for the Irish sent Bosnia to the free-throw line in the closing stages though, and unfortunately, time just run out and on a thrilling closing quarter and Ireland’s hopes of Division A basketball, as Bosnia and Herzegovina held on to win 63-71 in the end.

    Speaking afterwards, head coach Patrick O’Neill stated: "I’m so proud of how the girls performed today. Apart from a bad third quarter, we played some of the best basketball of the tournament. The team has been phenomenal and the support has been second to none. These girls have proved that we, as a nation, can compete at this level. So watch out Europe, Ireland is coming."

    IRELAND UNDER 18 WOMEN: Eve Nealon, Dayna Finn (13), Nicole Clancy (4), Enya Maguire (14), Annaliese Murphy (3), Maeve Phelan, Lynn Tunnah, Maeve Ó Séaghdha (7), Niamh Masterson (5), Bronagh Power Cassidy (10), Ella McCloskey (3), Katie Williamson (4).

     

  • Ireland U20 women’s head coach Martin Conroy has announced his final roster of 12 players who will continue on to represent Ireland at this year’s FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship Division B in Kosovo.

    Speaking about the announcement, he stated: "Making this selection was one of the toughest decisions I've had to make as a basketball coach. We started with an extremely talented panel and they made it really difficult for the coaches to select the final 12. This team brings everything that we need to go out and win games in Kosovo this coming summer - and we are excited!"The squad will tip off their European campaign from August 3-11th in Kosovo.

    You can view the official event website here: http://www.fiba.basketball/europe/u20bwomen/2019

    The selected players are:

    Alison Blaney, Trinity College Dublin, Maree BC

    Amy Dooley, Hobart & William Smith Colleges (USA)

    Amy Murphy, Cork College of Commerce, Brunell BC

    Annaliese Murphy, University College Cork, Ambassador UCC Glanmire

    Claire Melia, TU Dublin Blanchardstown, Portlaoise Panthers

    Dayna Finn, NUIG, Maree BC (Mayo)

    Enya Maguire, Ulidia Integrated College, Ulster University Elks

    Louise Scannell, Ambassador UCC Glanmire

    Maeve Phelan, Dublin City University, Pyrobel Killester

    Maggie Byrne, NUIG, Maree BC (Mayo)

    Rachel Huijsdens, Trinity College Dublin, DCU Mercy

    Sorcha Tiernan, Trinity College Dublin, Courtyard Liffey Celtics

     

  • Head coach of NUIG Mystics, Mike Murray, has this week been appointed to the backroom team of Pete Strickland’s Ireland Senior men’s team.

    Murray – who is originally from Mayo but now lives in Galway - has been appointed as team manager for the squad, who are currently preparing for the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries, which will take place in San Marino this June.

    Speaking about the news, Mike said: “It’s a real honour to be appointed as team manager for the Ireland Senior men’s team and I’m really looking forward to working with Pete, Ioannis [Liapakis] and the rest of the team in the coming months. Preparing for European Championships is very exciting and I’m extremely honoured to be part of it all.”

    Coach Strickland added: “We are ecstatic to have Mike join us as our team manager for this championship season. Mike has been dedicated and devoted to the game of basketball as a stalwart player, a successful coach and a caring administrator. I’ve no doubt that his involvement with our senior men’s squad will enhance all that we do.”