IRELAND were edged by Slovakia in the senior men's team's first competitive game since 2019.
Jordan Blount, Kyle Hosford and Adrian O'Sullivan featured for Mark Keenan’s side, who saw a CJ Fulton’s buzzer-beater at the death bounce off the rim.
It was the first contest in their two-game friendly series as Ireland fine-tune preparations for the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries, which will be held in Dublin from August 10.
Blount finished with 16 points, second-highest scorer after John Carroll, who helped himself to 29.
Slovakia were 27-23 after the first quarter, though Carroll, coming off the back of a season in Spain with CB Zamora, looked bright and picked up three three-pointers and 11 points in total.
Slovakia opened up an 11-point lead but Ireland responded with a scoring run of eight points, finished off by a lovely buzzer-beater before the break by Jordan Blount, who ended up with 10 points in the quarter, leaving them just two points behind at half-time, 47-45.
Ireland moved 57-52 ahead but a timeout was called and Slovakia upped the tempo, with Vladimir Brodzianski, in particular, inspiring them, both from the free-throw line and in general play: 74-66.
The final quarter ebbed and flowed. When Sean Flood burst toward the basket with 32.3 seconds left he was fouled. Flood picked up one from two at the line and Ireland trailed by the single point. It set up a grandstand finish and Ireland managed to wrestle back possession in the dying seconds, with CJ Fulton desperately unlucky with his long-range effort, having contributed impressively on his senior international debut, ending with 14 points.
Head coach Mark Keenan said: “Overall very happy with the level of performance, this being our first game together as a squad. You can do all the practicing and practice games in training, but it is not the same as real live games.
"I thought CJ’s (Fulton) shot was actually going in, it looked really good from the angle we were looking at. We are a little disappointed not to get over the line, but is not all about this weekend, it is about our preparation for the tournament, so today was a really good preparation day.”
Ireland face Slovakia again on Sunday at 2pm, with live score updates on the Basketball Ireland’s Twitter feed.