U16 basketball coach Andy Gill has named his final list of players who’ll represent Ireland as a part of the U16 Women’s National Team in what he described as his 'hardest selection ever'.
There are four Cork players included. Brunell pair Rachel Lynch and Issy McSweeney accompany Rebecca Sexton of Carrigaline and Fr Mathew's Rachel Bowdren, who is one of four girls to be selected a year young.
Eleven different clubs are represented on the final squad of 12 players who’ll continue their preparations before packing their bags for the U16 FIBA European Challenge Tournament in Piestany, Slovakia.
The selection of these girls who also represent Colaiste An Chroi Naofa, Scoil Mhuire Gan Smal, Carrigaline CS and Christ King respectively brings the tally of this summer’s Cork underage international players to eight across the four travelling teams.
Speaking after the cut, Gill was thankful for the chance to see his squad take on another team before making his final decision.
“Selecting the final 12 [players] is always the hardest part of our job and this was no different.
“We were able to play two much-needed games against our U18 team, which, despite the age differential, enabled us to see the players in a competitive environment.” In a turbulent year hampered by the pandemic, the team won’t get the chance to play in a conventional European Championship.
However, these Irish hopefuls will get the opportunity to play against the hosts before taking on Israel, Switzerland, Romania and Luxembourg in a six-team tournament at the Diplomat Arena.
Given the fact that all of these girls are playing their basketball here in Ireland, their game on the opening night against Slovakia will be the first official game of basketball for these ladies in well over a year.
Diligent preparations from all of the squad members, despite the long layoff, have been integral according to coach Gill.
“With a really short preparation phase before the European Challengers event in August, players have had to fully embrace both practice and maximising their work away from the court.
“Every player has taken on these demands and should be proud of their efforts.”
In a controversial week for Irish basketball, Gill is looking forward to his side getting the chance to display all the right qualities on the big stage.
“There is no doubt this group of players will give their all for the country and continue to demonstrate what is good about Irish basketball.”