Edel Thornton and Orla O'Reilly fly Cork flag for Ireland v Netherlands

A sold-out National Basketball Arena will feature a top-class FIBA EuroBasket 2023 qualifier this Sunday
Edel Thornton and Orla O'Reilly fly Cork flag for Ireland v Netherlands

BACK TO THE FUTURE: Orla O'Reilly in 2015 action against Russia. Pic: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

THE Irish Senior Women’s team are in action again this Sunday when they play the Netherlands in their FIBA EuroBasket 2023 qualifier at the National Basketball Arena.

The last time these two teams met last November the Irish girls lost 82-60 in Amsterdam.

Ireland captain is Edel Thornton plays locally with Singleton’s SuperValu Brunell and is really looking forward to this game.

“We expect a really hard physical battle on both ends of the floor. They have a lot of size inside and their guards are also very strong and athletic. Defensively we will need to be tuned into the game plan, work hard and match their physicality.

“Offensively we will need to be patient and handle their pressure better than we did this time last year,” Edel said.

Ireland's Edel Thornton has been immense for Brunell this season. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
Ireland's Edel Thornton has been immense for Brunell this season. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

“We have been working together as a unit since June and had a really busy schedule in August to prepare us for the level of competition we are now facing.

“We played a talented Estonia team in the National Basketball Arena and Oblates Hall in August before flying out to Portugal to take on the extremely skilled Portuguese side.

“Winning the Estonia games gave us more confidence heading to Portugal as we knew how challenging this side would be.

CHEMISTRY

“Throughout both competitions we practiced multiple times as a team, familiarising ourselves with each other even more and developing a chemistry.

“Following these trips we returned to our clubs for the domestic season to begin. As we had discussed as a team and management we would meet up as many times as the domestic season would allow us in the lead-up to the qualifier in November.

“Three weekends is what we could manage and so following games on Saturday the team would meet in Dublin on Sunday for a three-hour session before going back to our clubs/jobs/colleges on the Monday.

Ireland's head coach James Weldon
Ireland's head coach James Weldon

“This is the level of preparation we felt necessary as we know our opposition have the opportunity to meet together as a team for longer periods during the summer and sometimes winter months.

It’s a great feeling and honour that the coaching staff have that sort of faith and confidence in me to captain the team.

“I don’t think I’ll ever want to think of it as a ‘big deal’ while I’m in the position but I’m sure when I look back on my career in many years it will be the accolade, I am most proud of.

“I think as a team we were really disappointed last year with the result as we felt as though we could have performed better and either kept the score line narrower or won the game if we played to our potential.

“Therefore, we are eager to get another go at it. This time with the introduction of some new and old faces.

“To have Orla O’Reilly back in the green uniform is really exciting as I looked up to her as a youngster and she helped me so much in my teenage years.

“So being able to suit up alongside her for the first time is another thing I personally am really looking forward to,” Edel added.

COMEBACK

The return of Orla O’Reilly is a great boost for James Weldon’s side as she will bring a wealth of experience from playing professionally with Waverley Falcons in the Australian NBL 1 South League.

The last time Orla played with the Irish Senior Woman’s team in a FIBA official game was in 2009, however, she did play in a 3x3 competition recently.

“I’m really excited as it’s been a while since I got the chance to play at home here in Ireland.

“The standard of play in this European competition is very high, but our team is full of young energetic players that are eager to compete and prove themselves.” 

“The last time I played in an official FIBA International game was in 2009. Unfortunately, the Irish program took a break from international play for a few years.

“When they returned in 2016, I was a little unlucky with injuries and missed some tournaments.

The past few years wasn’t possible for a number of reasons, I was pregnant and gave birth to my son Finley, Covid lockdowns and the strict Australian borders.

“This present window in November was the first time that playing with the Irish program was a real possibility in the last four years.

“If I can be a positive mentor to these young players, I will be happy going back home to Melbourne to start preseason with my team."

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