Three Cork basketballers in Paul Kelleher's U18 Ireland squad

Michael O'Mahony, Cillian O'Connell and Jack O'Leary will travel to Slovakia in August
Three Cork basketballers in Paul Kelleher's U18 Ireland squad

Ireland and Fr Mathew's basketballer Michael O'Mahony.

THREE Cork basketballers have been selected by Ireland U18 coach Paul Kelleher for the FIBA European Challenge 2021, which will take place in Levice, Slovakia from August 3-8.

Fr Mathew's Mike O'Mahony, Blue Demons' Jack O'Leary and Ballincollig's Cillian O'Connell have made the cut.

There are five uncapped players: Joseph Coughlan (Galway Titans), Ruairi Cronin (Limerick Celtics), Ajay Ryan-Walsh (Limerick Lions), Killian Gribben (Letterkenny Blaze/LYIT Donegal) and O’Connell.

There are five players chosen who played for Ireland at the 2019 FIBA U16 European Championship in Podgorica, Montenegro: O'Mahony (Fr Mathew's BC), Darragh Ferguson (Belfast Star), Wede Esajobar (Drogheda Wolves), along with twins Tim and Sean Pollmann-Daamen (Tralee Imperials/Garvey’s Tralee Warriors). Reece Barry (Limerick Lions) and O’Leary picked up both their Ireland U16 caps in December 2018, in friendly games against Belarus.

Cork coach Paul Kelleher said: “In many ways, this was the most difficult selection we’ve ever had to make. Not being on the floor very long, really getting to know all the players on a different level for a lot longer than usual, has made this really difficult. 

Ireland basketball coach Paul Kelleher. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ireland basketball coach Paul Kelleher. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"We’ve spent so many Sunday nights on Zoom, interacting more than we’ve ever done before. I personally would have enjoyed and loved to have spent more basketball time with this group, but it just wasn’t possible. 

Now we have our 12 selected players, we will practice as much as we can, continue to develop individually and collectively and see how it works out for us.” 

In May FIBA cancelled all 2021 Youth European Championships, replacing them with the FIBA European Challenge 2021. Ireland’s U18 men are in a seven-team tournament and will face Bulgaria and Hungary in their group. The other group contains Romania, Ukraine, Switzerland and Slovakia. The fixture schedule and competition format is still to be confirmed.

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