Cork basketball players made their mark this summer for Ireland

Jordan Blount was the star turn as men's senior team captured gold
Cork basketball players made their mark this summer for Ireland

Ireland's Jordan Blount celebrates at the final whistle after capturing gold. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

THE Ireland U16 Womens’ encounter with Luxembourg on Monday afternoon in Slovakia marked the end of a busy summer season of international basketball for the Irish.

A gold medal and a silver medal at senior level along with a handful of international debuts from the four travelling youth teams highlighted the return of competitive basketball from a 17-month hiatus.

The underage squads boasted eight Cork natives across the four teams to go along with six senior stars.

Following an eighth-place finish for the Women’s 3X3, Martin Conroy’s U20 Women took to the floor in Hungary on July 12.

Glanmire’s Mia Furlong had a strong finish to the tournament, leading her side in scoring in a narrow defeat to Serbia before notching seven points and seven rebounds against the Czech Republic.

Ireland’s senior women put on a show at the FIBA European Championships for Small Countries just a week later. Gráinne Dwyer and Edel Thornton played the role of co-captains to perfection, leading Ireland all the way to the final.

A Glanmire trio of Áine McKenna, Claire Rockall and Claire Melia were instrumental to the team’s success, with Melia finishing in the tournament’s All-Star 5.

Three emphatic wins in a row for Ireland over Andorra, Malta and Kosovo saw them into the final against Luxembourg at the expense of losing McKenna through injury.

Another imposing performance from Melia along with Maree’s Dayna Finn scoring 17 points wasn’t enough for Ireland who ultimately had to settle for a silver medal in Cyprus.

The focus then shifted to the U18 Women who once again, faced very stiff competition.

Kilkenny’s Lucy Coogan finished in the top five in scoring across all twenty-four teams at the European Challengers including twenty-nine points in their victory on the last day over Hungary.

Paul Kelleher’s U18 Men flew to Slovakia just three days later for their FIBA European Challenger Tournament.

Ballincollig’s Cillian O’Connell had an impactful week on his international debut to go alongside UCC Demons’ Jack O’Leary who finished in the top 10 for assists and steals across the 32 competing teams.

The U16 Women began their campaign not long after in Slovakia also, with international debuts for every player in their match against the hosts.

The senior Men got things going at their FIBA tournament in Tallaght on Tuesday with wins over Andorra, San Marino and Gibraltar on their way to the title-deciding game.

As expected, the stellar performances from Jordan Blount, Adrian O’Sullivan and Kyle Hosford saw Ireland storm through the competition, capping off the summer with a gold medal in a win over Malta. Blount made the All-Star 5 and came close to a triple-double (more than 10 points, rebounds and assists) in the last game.

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