By Rory Squires, PA International
Coach Gerry Fitzpatrick is hoping his Ireland team can continue their successful whistle-stop tour of Europe this week by claiming their third win in the space of eight days on Saturday.
After they swept past Malta 90-51 last Saturday, and claimed a 79-68 victory in a bruising encounter with Switzerland back home in Dublin on Wednesday, Fitzpatrick’s troops have jetted out to Bratislava, where they will face Slovakia on Saturday.
The contest will provide a serious test of the team’s collective stamina, but Fitzpatrick is confident of a positive result, and believes his team is progressing in the right direction.
“It was a very physical game, and my only concern is that the Slovak Republic played Malta on Monday and have had an extra two days to recover,” said Fitzpatrick.
“My understanding was that the games would be played at the same time, so I don’t know why that happened.
“However I think we are on the right track. Our timing and understanding of each other is definitely getting better and the players have done everything I could have asked of them. They have given 100%.”
Against Switzerland Ireland led from the start, before pulling clear in the final quarter as fouls began to take their toll on the visitors.
Forward Jim Moran, finally able to represent his country after his delayed release from Spanish club side Telecom Canarias, was inspired on his return, and shooting guard Jay Larranaga scored 18 points for the second game in a row.
A superb late display of three-point shooting from Vladimir Roland Buscaglia cut the deficit to 11 points, but it was still a comfortable win for the Irish.
“I was pleased with the performance and I thought Switzerland played pretty well,” added Fitzpatrick.
“We led from the start and then jumped away from them towards the end. Four of our players got into double figures and it was a real boost for us having Jim Moran back in the team.
“It’s hard to know what the Slovak Republic will be like, but for me, our success will depend on how well we can adjust to, and execute, different styles of defence and offense.”