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‘We have to forget about the Small Countries win’ – John Carroll on Ireland’s big Euro ambitions

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Ireland's John Carroll. Photo by: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Ireland's John Carroll. Photo by: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Ireland's John Carroll. Photo by: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

IRELAND have big ambitions after winning the European Small Countries Championship last August, and now prepare to begin life in the continent’s upper level.

Vice-captain John Carroll hopes that the lower-tier title remains firmly in their rear-view mirror, ahead of the first of their EuroBasket 2025 pre-qualifiers against Cyprus today (5.0pm). 

“We basically wanted to make a statement last summer that we didn't want to be in the Small Countries again, we're too good for this,” Carroll said.

“And we basically did that. We destroyed that tournament. And I think they took notice of that, which let us get into these pre-qualifiers that we're now playing in.”

The 26-year-old and his team-mates have travelled to Nicosia for their first game before returning to Dublin where they face Austria in the National Basketball Arena on Sunday.

Seán Flood plays in Cyprus and has given some insight to his Ireland team-mates and Carroll, who expects a “scrappy” team this evening.

A stiff challenge lies in wait, all the same.

“We have to forget about the August tournament. We did what we're meant to do, we ran up the scoreboard and really made a statement,” Carroll said.

“But these are going to be different games. They're like all pros so there will be a real challenge just to get a one-point win.”

The past two years have been about good timing for the Dubliner.

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A knee injury in January 2020 proved to be a blessing in disguise, as it ruled him out for an eight-month period, where very little basketball was played anywhere.

By the time the cartilage damage healed, pandemic restrictions had eased in Spain, where he joined in the second-tier side Zamora.

That had him well prepared for the Small Countries tournament where he was Ireland's top scorer, while his team-mates at home had to endure 18-months of no activity.

“I can't imagine how it was for those guys who hadn't played in over a year. That was tough for them, I imagine. But they did alright and were in pretty good shape.”

Ireland's success set up him up well for his move to Albacete, who currently sit third in their division of the Spanish third-tier, LEB Plata.

Carroll and Ireland will hope that upward curve continues when their first game tips off.


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