Saturday 17 February 2018

O'Mahony enjoys green shoots as U-18s make history

 

Claire Melia during last week’s European ‘B’ Championships
in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Claire Melia during last week’s European ‘B’ Championships in Dublin. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Barry Lennon

Ireland U-18 girls' coach Tommy O'Mahony believes their historic finish at the European 'B' Championship underlines basketball's green shoots of recovery after financial woe had forced all national sides to be shelved temporarily.

His determined young charges secured promotion to Europe's Division 'A' after Sunday's 67-43 loss to Germany in the final, the furthest an Irish underage side has gone.

O'Mahony described the result at the tournament hosted in Dublin as a "massive turnaround" since the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport pulled funding from Basketball Ireland, forcing the shelving of teams in 2009.

The teams have since returned but players must dig into their own pockets to help pay their way - very different than other national set-ups.

"(For training) we'd probably go to Dublin because we've five Dublin girls on the team and then the other seven people would stay in their houses for a weekend," explains the Kerryman who teaches in Waterford.

"I was in Croatia. Their side had been staying in hotels for the last month and they'd been training twice a day with professional coaches. Resources are obviously hugely different."

O'Mahony hails the efforts of the club sides in his two-year quest to build this side.

"This just hasn't happened overnight. I only get them for a bit of the time so the club coaches have been doing a hell of a job," he adds.

Significantly, six of his current charges are eligible for Ireland's U-18s as they bid retain their place in Division 'A' next year.

However, one star performer, 6'4" Claire Melia, who registered 113 points during the tournament (thanks in part to her Gaelic football background), will not be there.

Ireland also benefited from the footballing background of Danya Finn, who has represented her native Mayo on the pitch, following in the footsteps of her father and former senior footballer for the Green and Red, John Finn.

"There was a lot of scouts there in Tallaght, I'm sure they'll want the calibre of those girls to play. I'm sure they'll be getting offers (for scholarships)," O'Mahony says.

"I'd hate to see this (result) being a flash in the pan. The whole thing of Ireland being used to moral victories has to go out the window."

Irish Independent

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