'Why are Ireland's best U16 male basketballers not getting the same chance as the female players?'

Frustration at Basketball Ireland's decision not to enter U16 and U20 squads into tournaments this summer
'Why are Ireland's best U16 male basketballers not getting the same chance as the female players?'

U16 schools final basketball action at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin back in 2020 before the sport was put on hold for Covid. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

THERE are plans for Ireland's best U16 and U20 male basketballers to train later this summer, despite the decision not to enter international teams into the European competitions for those age grades.

While female squads have been training in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght in recent weeks with a view to taking part in U16, U18 and U20 tournaments, the same opportunity hasn't been afforded to male players at U16 and U20. A U18 Men's panel is being put together, with well-known Cork basketball coach Paul Kelleher at the helm.

Parents left frustrated by the decision not to enter teams at U16 and U20 contacted The Echo to express their frustration: "If it was reversed and the girls were not entered, it would be outrageous and newsworthy, it shouldn't matter that it's boys being ignored this time."

Basketball has been one of the sports worst hit by Covid, with no indoor training or matches, aside from the recent dispensation for international level, since October. Only a handful of club games have been played at any level since March 2020, with school competitions wiped out. 

That makes it especially tricky to select panels for teenagers, though trials have taken place in Dublin for the groups entered into the European competitions. Indeed there is uncertainty about whether the revamped mini-tournaments will be feasible in August. 

The senior men's and women's teams will see the court, with Ireland hosting the male competition in August and the female squad off to Cyrus from July 20-25.

When contacted for comment, Basketball Ireland explained: "Four of our six underage international sides have chosen to compete in the FIBA European Challenge 2021. 

"This decision was made following consultation with the stakeholders of each team - management, parents and players. Basketball Ireland and its Elite Performance Committee respect the call made by our U16 and U20 Men's teams to not compete in FIBA competition this summer. 

Naturally, there will be disappointment among some at these age groups, but we'd like to assure everyone that it was a decision not taken lightly. 

"Our U16 and U20 Men's international programmes will continue to train throughout the summer and target the 2021/22 season."

One of the parents told The Echo:

"Kids have been working towards this for years, but they don't get the opportunity because of a lack of governance by Basketball Ireland allowing a decision like this to be taken for a single group as opposed to all teams. 

"Lot of these boys dream of a scholarship to the US in a few years, following the footsteps of players like Aidan Igiehon, Sean Jenkins, Sean Flood, CJ Fulton and so many others getting that Division 1 experience because they were talented and represented their country at underage. 

"Wearing the green jersey is a tick on the CV and good visibility to enable that opportunity. 

EQUALITY

"Girls at the same age get a chance. If it was reversed and the girls were not entered, it would be outrageous and newsworthy, it shouldn't matter that it's boys being ignored this time.

"They referenced Covid and safety etc, yet every other team is entering. They didn't ask parents or players. 

"It's an absolutely completely unfair and even a bit of discrimination that they enter U16 Girls, U18 Boys and Girls, and U20 Girls but don't give the U16 Boys a chance.

It's more upsetting for the boys this weekend because the U16 girls have been training at the national arena with posts on social media, it's very insensitive. It's a shame, as this group is seemingly quite talented based on comments from regional coaches.

"The U16 boys is the last tournament, scheduled for late in August, so lots of time to plan and other teams have entered with shorter timescales."

On a more positive note, seven Cork basketballers have been named to date on the Irish panels training at the National Basketball Arena. There are a host of Cork-born and Cork-based seniors players in contention for the adult teams that will contest the tournaments later this summer.

There are no Cork players on the 15-strong U18 Girls' panel but there are a host of Leesiders in the extended squad of 23 at U16, Fr Mathew's Rachel Bowdren, Issy McSweeney and Rachel Lynch (Brunell), Carrigaline's Rebecca Sexton and Dougal Panthers duo Boluwatife Ugwah and Ava Walshe. Glanmire's Mia Furlong is included in the 18 currently training for the U20 competition.

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