MIA Furlong from UCC Glanmire will fly the flag for Cork after Ireland U20 women’s basketball coach Martin Conroy named an 18-strong squad for the FIBA European Challenge 2021.
The 5' 11" guard has pulled on the Irish singlet from U15 through to U18 level and now aims to help her country when they take on Europe’s best in the A division of basketball.
The squad returned training the weekend before last, with five from Portlaoise Panthers included: Jasmine Burke, Ciara Byrne, Shauna Dooley and Sarah Fleming and Lisa Blaney.
American-based Molly Moffit, a 17-year-old with Seattle Prep, is the only uncapped player in the squad. She is one of four players playing in the USA, along with Ciara Mulleady, Eve Nealon and Katie Williamson.
Cork's Furlong has been a talented athlete since her early teens and an excellent soccer player with Riverstown as well as on the hardwood. The 19-year-old will be hoping to push her way to the front of the pack when the competition comes around, though the details have yet to be finalised in that regard due to Covid restrictions.
Ireland will be sending U16, U18 and U20 women's teams to the new FIBA European Challenge 2021 format, which replaces the Youth European Championships, but unfortunately only the U18s, managed by Paul Kelleher, will represent the men's stream. The U16 and U20 squads have opted not to enter their competitions.
“We’ve been away from the game for a long time, but these young women were fantastic at our three Talent ID sessions and gave our staff a lot of difficult decisions to make," said U20 coach Martin Conroy.
"Our coaching staff talked it through, and we have selected these final 18 players. There are some incredibly talented players that have missed out, but that’s what we expected at this level.
Basketball Ireland’s Elite Performance Committee consulted with all the stakeholders, the management, parents and players, before the call was made on which groups would be participating. It's been an extremely difficult period since March 2020 for all indoor sports like basketball.
Chair of the EPC, Tim Rice, said: “While not having Youth European Championships is disappointing for all, the opportunity for these four teams to test their mettle on the international stage in the European Challenge tournaments this summer is a big win for Irish basketball. Our players, parents, coaches, and team management should be commended for continuing to strive, persevere and never give up.”
The EPC will assist these squads logistically and financially as much as possible. Participation is contingent upon government guidelines on travel and general health issues and no host country or start date has been set for the U20s, who were originally due to travel to Hungary in early July.