Ireland: Coleman Confident Campaign Will Help Produce Stars

20 June 2006
By Jean Smyth, PA Sport

Ireland coach Maeve Coleman believes the Year of Women's Basketball campaign will help generate a new batch of future stars from previously untouched areas of the country.

The scheme, set up by FIBA Europe earlier this year, was officially launched in Ireland on June 13.

Sports Minister John ODonoghue speaking about the Year of Womens Basketball.
Sports Minister John O'Donoghue participated in the Year of Womens Basketball launch in Ireland.
A number of players, coaches and officials, as well as minister of sport John O'Donoghue and the European Year of Women's Basketball project manager Esther Wender, attended a ceremony to mark the occasion.

Coleman is currently on tour with the national team - they will play games against Portugal and Luxembourg over the next week - but she is thrilled at the effect the initiative is having back home.

And with the improved backing the sport is now receiving in Ireland, she hopes it will act as a launchpad in the search to unearth hidden gems from the further reaches of the Irish landscape.

"As far as I was concerned, I was originally going to be involved in school's basketball with girls," she said.

"But this new project now allows us to provide funding for them and bring in people to teach the kids in areas where there isn't much basketball. That's going to be great."

Coleman is well aware of her players' limitations.

They lack physicality but that is compensated for in other areas, notably in terms of defense and tactical awareness.

They have already lost twice to Portugal on tour, 81-49 and 61-50, but she was happy with her team's application and improved defensive performance.

She is hoping this sort of tour will raise awareness of the sport in her home country and allow Ireland to play a more dominant role in European basketball.

"For us, just being able to go a on a five-day trip gives us the opportunity to play the Portuguese senior team and then go to Luxembourg and play two games there.

"It's allowing us bigger opportunities and gives us more scope to travel around Europe and give opportunities to play for the national team."

The tour has allowed her to blood promising young players like Annmarie Healy, Grainne Dwyer and Jolie McKeirnan, who are all in their early 20s and part of the up-and-coming generation.

Coleman is looking forward to the qualifying campaign for EuroBasket women, which begins in earnest later in the year.

Ireland have been drawn in the same group as Norway, Holland and Iceland, an extremely tough pool for such a developing basketball country.

They will hoping to achieve promotion from Division B and go on to qualify for the EuroBasket women finals, which would see them compete against the best teams on the continent.

"I didn't really think the group was that tough until we played Portugal," she added.

"Size-wise, we are so much smaller than all the other countries.

"Iceland are relatively new but have a fantastic youth structure and that is why they are up in our pool. I really think it is going to be level pegging between us all. There will be no easy games."



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