Basketball Ireland is rolling out ambitious plans for 8 to 10 Centres of Excellence, which will be located nationwide. NUI Galway and Ulster University in Jordanstown are the first two Centres of Excellence to be confirmed, having signed an agreement with Basketball Ireland this month. Talks are ongoing with a number of other third level institutions, with further announcements in due course.
Each Centre of Excellence will provide access to expertise, such as strength and conditioning, sports medicine, sports psychology, diet and nutrition, sports management and administration, coach development and training. They will also have media and meeting facilities.
The Centres of Excellence will be used for national training camps for international sides, along with Basketball Ireland academies. There will also be the ability to host international fixtures, national senior competitions, intervarsity competitions, as well as local schools cups and blitzes.
Basketball Ireland CEO, Bernard O’Byrne, who has spearheaded the initiative with colleague Colman O’Flynn, said: “We are delighted to be teaming up with NUI Galway and Ulster University. Both institutions have wonderful facilities and a proven track record in sport, developing athletes for elite competition. These Centres of Excellence are a major infrastructural initiative by Basketball Ireland to deliver world-class facilities and will give our international players and teams the best chance of success when they compete. These Centres of Excellence will be geographically spread, meaning there will be top of the range resources available to local basketball communities in every corner of the country. We want everyone participating in the sport to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. We have seen a surge in interest in basketball in Ireland and we are determined to continue its growth.”
Mike Heskin, Director of Sport and Physical Activity at NUI Galway, said: “We are very excited about this new partnership with Basketball Ireland’s High Performance Programme. The University has been developing partnerships with a number of the High Performance Sport programmes in Ireland, involving both domestic and Olympic sports. We are certain these partnerships will prove hugely beneficial to our University athletes, by providing a clear pathway for them to achieve their athletic goals. We are especially delighted to be in partnership with Basketball Ireland to build on the existing relationship, which has provided Olympians in our recent past.
“I would like to thank the support that Feargal O’Callaghan, our High Performance Lead; Mike Murray, our Director of Basketball and the help I have received from the University leadership, especially Michelle Miller, Dean Of Students, in developing a High Performance Hub at NUI Galway for the western region. We hope to see a number of other sports follow Basketball Ireland’s lead and operate a high performance programme from the NUI Galway’s campus.”
WATCH: We hear from Ireland underage internationals Aine McDonagh (NUIG Mystics) and Malik Thiam (Titans), NUIG Mystics head coach Paul O'Brien, Mike Heskin, Director of Sport and Physical Activity, NUI Galway and Mike Murray, Director of Basketball, NUI Galway and Basketball Ireland Development Officer.
Feargal O’Callaghan, NUI Galway’s High Performance Sports Lead, added: “I am delighted we have this new partnership with Basketball Ireland. The sports department at NUI Galway has been developing new relationships with a number of key sports in order to develop athletes for the University and the region. The fact that Basketball Ireland has chosen NUI Galway as a base for its programme in the region is great recognition for the hard work that has been put in by everyone in the University sports department. I am really looking forward to seeing what this partnership will do for basketball in the region.”
From left, Patrick O'Neill Ulster University/Basketball Ireland Development Officer; Prof. Deirdre Brennan, Ulster University senior academic and coach; Conor Quinn Ireland and Belfast Star, Luke Marshall, former Ulster University player; Alex Mulligan Ireland and Ulster University; Dr. Nigel Dobson, Head of Sport Services, Ulster University and Amanda Castray, Director of Campus Life, Ulster University
Dr. Nigel Dobson, Head of Sports Services at Ulster University also welcomed the designation as a Centre of Excellence: “At Ulster University we are passionate about performance and helping people fulfil their potential. We have a long history in basketball, with a number of international players coming through the university, including Emer Howard, Deirdre Brennan, Gareth Maguire, Adrian Fulton and more recently Alex Mulligan and the Quinn twins, Conor and Aidan. Ulster University has also been competing in the men’s and women’s National League since 2005/06 season. This partnership with Basketball Ireland for a Centre of Excellence at our Jordanstown campus builds upon the great work of Patrick O’Neill, our joint basketball development officer and continues our joint pursuit of excellence in the sport.”
Prof. Deirdre Brennan, Ulster University senior academic and coach added: “Basketball has always been an integral part of Ulster University sporting culture since its inception. We have been graced with Irish Internationals dating back to 70’s, who have helped us win multiple varsity and college titles. We are thrilled with the development of a Basketball Ireland Centre of Excellence and look forward to welcoming international teams and players, as well as local clubs, to avail of the excellent facilities and resources we have on offer.”
WATCH: We hear from Ireland internationals Conor Quinn (Belfast Star) and Alex Mulligan (Ulster University), former Ulster University player Luke Marshall, Prof. Deirdre Brennan, Ulster University senior academic and coach, Patrick O'Neill Ulster University/Basketball Ireland Development Officer and Dr. Nigel Dobson, Head of Sports Services, Ulster University.