IRELAND coasted to a 50 point victory over Gibraltar at the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries, winning 113-63.
Cork trio Kyle Hosford, Jordan Blount, and Adrian O'Sullivan combined for 28 points to set up the clash with Malta on Sunday at the National Basketball Arena where a win over Malta hands the hosts the title.
Sean Flood, with a 70% field goal conversion rate, was Ireland’s top scorer, on 19 points. Adrian O’Sullivan was among several excellent performers on the night with nine points, two rebounds, two assists and one steal.
Ireland made the perfect start with a three-point jump shot from John Carroll in the first few seconds. Midway through the opening quarter Ireland had opened up a 17-2 lead after a Will Hanley layup.
Neil Randolph’s three-point lay-up made it 28-12 with less than two minutes to go in the first quarter. A foul was also called, it was a decision which Gibraltar’s coach Adam Cassaglia disagreed with, so much so it led to him being dismissed from the bench by the officials, having picked up two technical fouls and he had to trudge back to the dressing rooms, missing the rest of the game. Undeterred by the drama off-court, Randolph added the extra point. Ireland would lead 31-14 by the end of the quarter.
Adrian O’Sullivan was drafted in for second quarter and he downed a couple of nice layups. Ireland’s aggressive defence was creating opportunities, a Will Hanley turnover handed Jordan Blount an easy layup for a 44-25 lead with just under five minutes gone.
Ciaran Roe illustrated that dogged defensive determination just before the break, crashing into the advertising hoardings as he sought to block a three-point jump shot from Nicholas Garcia at the buzzer. Roe’s efforts were rewarded, Garcia failed with his attempt and Ireland led 57-28 at half-time.
Ireland continued to dominate, two dunks in the opening three minutes from John Carroll and Lorcan Murphy lit up the third quarter and Ireland would hold 83-46 advantage going into the final quarter.
Ireland didn’t let up in the fourth quarter, Sean Flood brought up the 100 with a lovely jump shot from the three point line. It was another three from Flood which rounded out the 113-63 win.
Speaking afterward head coach Mark Keenan, who was Ireland captain last time they won a senior men’s international tournament in 1994, said: ”I think we set the tone right from the start again, like in the previous games, and that was our goal – get off to a good proper start in terms of our intensity and intent. It was hard to focus when you are thinking about another game tomorrow and all that, so it was just great that we kept our focus on this game and got the job done.
“It’s great to hit the tonne here at the Arena, it’s not done too many times, it hasn’t been too many times over the years, yeah the guys are in great shooting form. I haven’t seen our percentages yet, but I would say they’re pretty good.”
Ireland’s final game against Malta takes place at 7pm on Sunday and Keenan’s attentions have already turned to that fixture.
“We have just got to get a good rest and recovery now tonight and get the bodies right tomorrow and it’s all focus on Malta. It will be all in, it will be full-on preparation getting everything right, from match-ups and all that, so we will focus on that now. I am sure we will be a little nervous before the game when it kicks off, but that is only natural. It is a good sign to have a little bit of that edge in our tummy, so we’re looking forward to it now, bring it on.”