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Boys in green come of age as u16s' late surge against Belarus offers a positive Euro sign

IRELAND'S U16 Boys win over Belarus in their second group game has been the highlight of their European Championships in Estonia to date.

Their opening game in the tournament resulted in defeat against the Slovak Republic despite Luke Thompson, Roy Downey, and Enda Walsh all impressing in the scoring stakes.

Ireland enjoyed the better of the opening exchanges with Walsh securing the first five points but a devastating second quarter from the Slovak side left no way back for Paul Kelleher's side.

However, Ireland had to wait less than 24 hours to banish their opening day nightmare, recording a 67-58 win over Belarus. The Boys in Green trailed by just a solitary point going into the final quarter and were rewarded for their persistence when they kept their opponents scoreless for the last five minutes.

Luke Thompson and Tommy McDonald showed their perimeter shooting skills as they knocked three three-pointers in the closing stages between them. Ireland were coming of age defensively and restricted Belarus to just eight points as they sealed an excellent win.

Ireland's next encounter saw them suffer an 86-53 loss to highly fancied England, a team that head coach Paul Kelleher believes can go all the way in Tallinn this month. "They are so physical and athletic and I now think they could go on a major run in this tournament," said Kelleher. A gruelling schedule saw the mighty Czech Republic next on the agenda and the side, who participated in the top tier of European basketball last season, showed their class with a comfortable win over Ireland.

Ireland await a play-off stage against yet-to-be-decided opposition to determine their final standing at this year's competition.

It is now the turn of Ireland's under-16 girls, who face a mammoth task against Germany on Thursday in their opening European Championships clash in Skopje (Macedonia). A very difficult group sees the girls also play games against the Ukraine and Israel, but head coach Dave Baker will be hoping they will reap the benefits of their extensive summer training. Ireland finished a respectable 12th last season with the highlight being a superb 72-65 win over Montenegro.

Congratulations to Neptune, Killester, DCU and Ulster Elks for their hosting of the University of Pittsburgh over the past 10 days. The sold-out signs were present at all venues as the US giants recorded a 100pc record during their Irish stay.

"We had great crowds and a terrific atmosphere at all games," said Killester head coach Mark Keenan, who was heavily involved in the Dublin leg of Pittsburgh's trip.

"It's good for our guys to go up against that level of competition and it really sets us up for the start of the season.

"For Pittsburgh it's hugely beneficial, as a trip like this only comes around once every four years and they can't get experience like this in the States in the pre-season."

U16 European Championship Women Div B

August 12-22 Skopje (MKD)

August 12: v Germany, 16:30

August 13: v Ukraine, 14:15

August 14: v Israel, 21:00