Basketball coach Scannell urges Irish to embrace pressure

Irish coach Mark Scannell admits the pressure is on to deliver Basketball’s European Championships for Small Countries in Cork next month — even though he suspects the hosts are third favourites at best.

Scannell unveiled his 12-strong squad last night for the eight-nation tournament at UCC’s Mardkye Arena, which tips off on Tuesday, June 26.

Rising talent Claire Melia, recovering from a cruciate ligament operation, misses out, but one of the stars of Ireland’s run to the final of the Euro U18s last year, Liffey Celtics’ Sorcha Tiernan makes the cut.

Scannell is utilising the exciting talents of Spain-based Fiona O’Dwyer and the US college-based Edel Thornton, who lit up the NCAA’s Sweet Sixteen in March with MAAC-winning Quinnipiac.

Scannell says they’ll need their blend of experience and young talent firing from the start: “Looking at it purely on world rankings, we are maybe third but probably fourth favourites.

In our pool, we face Norway, Cyprus, and Luxembourg, all of whom have pros on their roster, and girls playing college ball in the States.

“But this group of Irish players is one the support will get behind. We punch above our weight, play a style of basketball the others won’t be used to. We’ll be getting up the floor, getting after teams, scrapping and making life difficult for them.”

Scannell, speaking at the squad announcement at the River Lee Hotel in Cork, added: “We have to rate ourselves as favourites. I want that expectation now so we can grow and live with it and focus on it for the next five weeks. The pressure is on us.

“We were second two years ago in the tournament when I thought we could and should have won.

“Since then we have played a lot of internationals — Luxembourg three times last year, Iceland twice. We are in Poland next week where we will play the national team twice. They are littered with big strong girls who will give us a really good test.”

Basketball Ireland is banking on sell-out support for each of Ireland’s three pool games, each of which tip off at 6.15pm. Scannell knows that homecourt advantage is an edge that must be capitalised on.

“We must embrace the expectation and the crowd support, we can’t be afraid of that. That’s the message we want to get through to the girls. When we walk onto the floor, we have to do it like we own the place. Because we do. I want the Mardyke to be a fortress.”

The squad will be skippered by Glanmire’s Gráinne Dwyer. The tournament will be a ticket only event. Daily tickets are priced at €15 (adult), €10 (student/OAP) and €5 (U16s). Rates for full tournament passes are €50 for adults, €20 for children or €100 for family pass (2 adults and 2 children).

Ireland Women’s squad:

A McKenna (Ambassador UCC Glanmire), Amy Waters (Singleton SuperValu Brunell), Casey Grace (Ambassador UCC Glanmire), Claire Rockall (do.), Danielle O’Leary (Singleton SuperValu Brunell), Edel Thornton (Quinnipiac Univ), Fiona O’Dwyer (A.S.D Basket, Spain), Grainne Dwyer (Ambassador UCC Glanmire), Hannah Thornton (Pyrobel Killester), Sarah Woods (DCU Mercy), Sorcha Tiernan (Courtyard Liffey Celtics), Stephanie O’Shea (Maxol WIT Wildcats) Group A: Malta, Gibraltar, Moldova, Denmark; Group B: Luxembourg, Norway, Ireland, Cyprus.

Fixtures — Tuesday, June 26:

Malta v Denmark, 13.45; Luxembourg v Cyprus, 16.00; Norway v Ireland, 18.15; Gibraltar v Moldova, 20.30

Wednesday, June 27:

Cyprus v Norway, 13.45; Denmark v Gibraltar, 16.00; Ireland v Luxembourg, 18.15; Moldova v Malta, 20.30

Thursday, June 28:

Luxembourg v Norway, 13.45; Moldova v Denmark, 16.00; Ireland v Cyprus, 18.15; Malta v Gibraltar, 20.30.

- All games will be played at the Mardyke Arena, UCC, Cork


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