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Leeside set for basketball takeover

Wednesday, 20th June, 2018 4:43pm

Next week is set to be a busy one on Leeside as the county hosts the 2018 FIBA Women’s European Championship for Small Countries.

It is the first time that Ireland has been awarded the competition in its 29 year history. The team is going in search of Ireland's first ever win, following four disappointing second place finishes.

Mark Scannell is guiding the Irish team's fortunes; the UCC Glanmire coach is well equipped for the job and says his panel of 12 are working hard ahead of tip-off next Tuesday in the Mardyke Arena.

“We've a very tough eight weeks training behind us, we've put a lot of time and energy in to this and considering the financial constraints, we're doing our best.

“We were in Poland a few weeks ago which was probably a good lesson for the girls, it was very tough. We have one professional in our side whereas these teams would have several professional and college players. To compare, it's like Ireland going up against Spain in soccer, they're two totally different levels and standards.

“The girls found the Polish experience very difficult. I was happy with that because I've an idea the teams we'll be up against won't be at the level of Poland. Their intensity, size and physicality, I can't see the teams next week being the same, so we can use that to our advantage hopefully.

“I would have preferred a few more international games ahead of next week but what can you do? There's no point in worrying about that now,” he added.

With three games back-to-back in three days, the Irish will have it tough. First up is Norway on Tuesday, followed by Luxembourg and Cyprus on Wednesday and Thursday.

“I'm looking forward to seeing how we'll manage that workload. Our strength and conditioning preparation has been spot on so far, under Colin O'Reilly, but we're going in to the unknown with that kind of schedule – it's very tough with no break at all.

“I don't know much about Norway, they've been out of the competition for the last three years now and the one thing I do know, teams only enter if they think they can win it, so Norway are back for a reason. They'll be dangerous and the we've to face Luxembourg the next day. We've played them five or six times in the last few years and it's split very evenly.”

12 Irish players were picked from a group of 20 for next week's tournament; the team features a number of experienced senior Irish international players including Grainne Dwyer, Claire Rockall and Sarah Woods, as well as last summer’s Irish under 18 star, Sorcha Tiernan.

“We've a good mix there,” says Mark. “We have experience and youth and there's a great spirit among the group, we have Edel (Thornton) and Fiona O'Dwyer who play their ball in America but all these girls are very familiar with each other, so while the other sides may have more experienced players, our girls make up for that with the spirit and familiarity. I really think that goes a long way in competitions like this, touch wood.”

Reigning champions Malta, who pipped Ireland to the gold medal in 2016, will also compete, and will contest Group A alongside Gibraltar, Moldova and Denmark. Getting off to a good start, is key to progression says Mark.

“We have a good coaching staff and a good blend within the team so we won't be found wanting. There will be no easy match and, looking at the other group, you have Malta who are the holders, Denmark are dangerous and you can't rule out Gibraltar or Moldova either - they'll have a few professional players so this competition could be anyones.

“I think we're in the best position we've ever been in, in terms of our technical ability. We will be making it very difficult for the teams we play, as the Jack Charlton method said, 'we're gonna 'put them under pressure'! I'm just looking forward to getting it started, let the games begin!”

All three Irish group games tip-off in the Mardyke Arena at 6.15pm from 26-28 June with knockout games to follow. For full schedule visit


The Ireland Senior Women’s team 2018 is:

Aine McKenna, Ambassador UCC Glanmire (Listowel, Co. Kerry)

Amy Waters, Singleton SuperValu Brunell (Gurranabraher)

Casey Grace, Ambassador UCC Glanmire (Carrigaline)

Claire Rockall, Ambassador UCC Glanmire (Maree, Co. Galway)

Danielle O'Leary, Singleton SuperValu Brunell (Gurranabraher)

Edel Thornton, Quinnipiac University (Gurranabraher)

Fiona O'Dwyer, A.S.D Basket Femminile Stabia (Stamford, Connecticut, USA)

Grainne Dwyer, Ambassador UCC Glanmire (Thurles, Co. Tipperary)

Hannah Thornton, Pyrobel Killester (Clontarf, Co. Dublin)

Sarah Woods, DCU Mercy (Clontarf, Co. Dublin)

Sorcha Tiernan, Courtyard Liffey Celtics (Leixlip, Co. Kildare)

Stephanie O'Shea, Maxol WIT Wildcats (Butlerstown, Co. Waterford)

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