Ireland's Boys face stiff test in tough european campaign
IRELAND'S U16 Boys international team will be tested to the hilt this summer when they take on the might of England, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and Belarus in their European Championship Boys Division B campaign.
It is certainly not the kindest of draws but the boys in green won't be travelling to the Estonian capital of Tallinn with any fear when the competition commences on August 5.
Ireland's last jaunt into European competition in 2009 saw them finish with an overall 14th place position, a standing not providing the full picture of a competition which saw them produce a number of good performances.
Their only win came against Luxembourg but they provided plenty of scares against fancied opposition in the shape of Georgia, Finland and Denmark.
"It's going to be a tough group with each side providing different obstacles," said head coach Paul Kelleher. "England have continuity and a familiarity about them with Simon Fisher in charge for the fourth year running. They have experienced what it is like to finish in the top eight. They are very competitive and their aim will be to break into the top eight.
"Belarus have five returnees from last year so their lads will be used to this type of environment," added Kelleher. "Slovakia are a very well coached team, reasonably athletic, but I expect the Czech Republic to provide the stiffest test. The Czechs have played 'A' basketball and I'm sure they will be one of the favourites to get back up to the grade they feel they should be playing.
"We will have to be extremely well prepared and fundamentally sound. Our aim is to be as competitive as possible; if we go there and concentrate on winning then it could backfire. We want to continue making progress."
Their cause will be bolstered by a pre-tournament trip to Netherlands, where Kelleher believes the 'Oranje' should provide a barometer of what they can expect in Estonia.
Meanwhile, this summer Basketball Ireland's commitment to building for the future will see an U16 Development Group travel to France. The development programme has been put in place for players who just missed out on a spot in the first team squad.
This initiative should have huge benefits for the future with players gaining the opportunity to represent their country and be involved in friendly action this summer.
IRELAND U16 BOYS EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP SQUAD
Roy Downey (Neptune BC), Paddy O'Sullivan (Killester BC), Kevin O'Hanlon (Carrick Rockets), Tommy McDonald (Birmingham), Colin Murray (Ballincollig), Pádraig Burke (Cal Oranmore), Lorcan Murphy (Pres Bray/Raiders), Enda Walsh (Maree), Niall Hegarty (Malahide/Swords), Luke Thompson (Templeogue), Gerard Reid (Swords BC), Jason O'Keefe (Col Choilm/Ballincollig)
IRELAND U16 BOYS DEVELOPMENT SQUAD
Andy Bartley (Pres Bray), Anton McDonnell (Templeogue), Barry Higgins (Templeogue), Cian McGuinness (Mohill), David Mackin (Presentation College/Raiders), Declan Manning (Ballincollig), Glen Williamson (Fr Mathews), Kyl Hilliard (Ballincollig), Michael Murray (St Aidan's/Tolka), Mikey Deegan (Killester), Nathan Dunne (Patrician Secondary School/Templeogue), Ross McCann (KUBS), Seán Moran (Kiltimagh)
U16 BOYS COACHING STAFF
Head Coach: Paul Kelleher; Assistant Coach: Adrian O'Neill: Assistant Coach: Jim Wolfe.