Ireland’s U17 men have been denied a place at the tournament finals of the FIBA U17 Skills Challenge 2020 after a heartbreaking defeat to Portugal in the final phase of European qualifying on Sunday.
Ireland posted their second-best time, but it wasn’t enough, as they fell to a 112-126 loss. A win would have seen Ireland compete against the world’s elite at a major finals, which are due to begin on Tuesday.
Ireland U17 head coach Paul Kelleher, made one change to his starting 5 for the crunch contest against Portugal, with Sean Pollmann-Daamen selected instead of Ben Burke.
Ruairi Cronin began Ireland’s challenge and he picked up three points along the way. He was followed by Tim Pollmann-Daamen (2 points), Daniel O’Sullivan (3 points), Sean Pollmann Daamen (1 point) and Killian Gribben (4 points). They finished with a time of 139 seconds, and their 13-point haul reduced their total to 126.
But their Portuguese opponents, who’d finished second in Group B of qualifying, completed the course in 132 seconds and picked up 20 points along the way, to finish with a score of 112.
Head coach Paul Kelleher was proud of the performance of his squad. “The boys gave everything and couldn’t have asked for much more than they did”, he said.
“We improved on the parts of the course that we wanted to. They have been so consistent, so inventive in their course execution. They gave everything and came up with their second best time, so it tells you how good Portugal were today, making a lot of shots with speed over the course. Unfortunately we came out the wrong side.”
Ireland had impressively finished top of Group A in European qualifying with three wins from four matches. They began with victory over Israel on Thursday, a defeat against Slovakia on Friday was followed by wins over highly-fancied Belarus and Poland.
Ireland’s U17 women were agonisingly eliminated from the FIBA U17 Women’s Skills Challenge 2020 on Friday, despite finishing joint-top of Group A in European qualifying, with three wins from their four qualifiers. They missed out on a count-back, after three sides in Group A each picked up three wins.
“I’m very proud of the girls efforts, but obviously bitterly disappointed for them not to have advanced, after the great performances they’ve put in over the last couple of days.
“Finishing tied for 1st with three wins was fantastic. Unfortunately at international level it’s the finest of margins that separates winning and losing. While it stings a little at the moment, it’s a great lesson to learn as we now head into the U18 women’s programme, with an eye on the European Championship next summer.
“A big thank you to Basketball Ireland and FIBA for putting on such a fun and entertaining event for everyone who took part.”
The Irish women, who began with wins over Israel and Belarus on Thursday, followed it with a comfortable 154-181 success over Gibraltar on Friday. A 130-142 defeat to Poland proved costly, as three wins proved not enough to progress.
The nine-person U17 women’s squad comprised of Hazel Finn, Sarah Hickey, Paris McCarthy, Kara McCleane, Shannon Cunningham, Maria Kealy, Rebecca Hynes, Aisling Marmion and Emily O’Dwyer, all of whom were named in Tommy O’Mahony’s Ireland U18 squad on Friday.