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Mark Keenan hails ‘best’ display despite Ireland failing in Euro bid

Ireland – 82 Switzerland – 88


Taiwo Badmus of Ireland in action against Robert Zinn of Switzerland. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Taiwo Badmus of Ireland in action against Robert Zinn of Switzerland. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Taiwo Badmus of Ireland in action against Robert Zinn of Switzerland. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Ireland failed to qualify for EuroBasket 2025 at last night’s final qualifying game, but coach Mark Keenan hailed this display as his side’s “best” performance in this campaign as a last-gasp fightback fell short.

The game’s top scorer Taiwo Badmus, who registered 23 points, inspired this late rally with a lay-up and free throw narrowing the gap to just four points with just two minutes remaining.

Ireland began to believe when Aidan Harris Igiehon blocked Roberto Kovac at the other end of the court as the Swiss sought to hold Ireland back.

The visitors to the National Basketball Arena were ultimately successful, winning by four points. However, Keenan remained “proud” of his charges’ progress during this European qualification tournament after progressing from last summer’s European Small Countries victory.

“They (Switzerland) are a tough team, there’s no doubt about it. I think we got better as these international windows went on,” Keenan said.

“We played them well the first time and I think that was probably the best (performance).

“You have to give the guys credit. It looked like it was going to get away from us there. When we need a spark from somewhere all of a sudden, bang, Aidan came in, gave us a good spark, Jordan (Blount) got going, Taiwo as well.”

Despite the defeat, there were positives to point to – and not just the big plus on the Swiss flag hanging from the arena’s ceiling.

Firstly, Ireland will still have a chance at making the EuroBasket 2025 competition through a plate competition next year.

And secondly, last night’s performance will have encouraged Keenan as Ireland seek to climb the European basketball ladder.

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Keenan’s men laid down a marker early on as Lorcan Murphy came off the bench to shoot eight of his 14 points in the first quarter. Switzerland were playing catch up and took the lead briefly through a Boris Mbala three before Will Hanley shot one of his own to regain Irish control.

A Selim Fofana jump-shot right on the buzzer levelled matters at 25-25, going into the second period, as the home side continued to set the pace.

The Swiss had to call for a time out to halt the Irish advance two minutes into the next quarter, which saw Badmus register two three pointers inside the first two minutes.

Arnaud Cotture’s dunk had the sides level before Murphy responded in kind with a trademark finish to allow Ireland enjoy a slender advantage at half-time (47-45).

After the break, Cotture, who had caused Keenan’s men problems in the paint earlier this campaign, began to do so again, scoring 10 points in the third period as Ireland’s defence faded.

A three from Switzerland’s Killian Martin pushed them 67-60 ahead – their biggest lead so far – before Keenan called a time-out to readjust. It did little to halt Switzerland as they entered the final quarter 75-65 ahead.

It seemed as if the home side’s challenge was over before Badmus stepped up, giving the supporters reason to cheer in the dying minutes.

Ultimately Ireland’s rally failed but they will be encouraged by last night’s fighting spirit with one eye on next year’s plate competition.

“I hope the association will get behind everybody for next year because our preparation needs to go up a few notches,” Keenan said

“Ideally, we would have loved a couple of challenge games coming into these games for the new guys coming in. That needs investment. The games are lined up, we just hadn’t got the finance, so if we can get that it’ll help.”

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