May 03 2022

Ireland U18 men's team secure series win over Slovakia

The Ireland U18 men’s team continued their fine Four Nations form with a 2-1 series win in the ‘AWM Contracts Slovakia Series’ over the bank holiday weekend.

Paul Kelleher’s side showed grit, skill and an unerring work ethic during the three-game series in which they fell behind 1-0 following an 82-68 score-line on Saturday.

Both sides were evenly matched throughout the opening contest. The away side edged the opening two quarters 47-44, before a couple of excellent shooting periods from Slovakia managed to separate the teams in the closing two periods.  

Plenty of lessons learned for the Irish team and they put those into practice on day two.

Ireland’s series comeback started early in game two.

A fast-paced performance saw Kelleher’s charges race out to a 35-19 lead midway through the second quarter, leaving the Slovakian side reeling but as they showed, well capable of wrestling back momentum.

A flurry of baskets in succession cut the lead to 11-points by the end of the third and it was game on as time ticked into the fourth.

The Slovakian onslaught of the basket continued, and Ireland needed to show all their mettle as the clock wound down. Coach Kelleher will be pleased with what he saw from his team in these moments.

Strong defence and a will to win allowed Ireland to level the series 1-1, 85-81.

It all came down to the final day with both coaching teams confident of victory after showing glimpses in the opening two encounters.

Both teams made some excellent adjustments on day three and it was evident early on that this would be much more of a defensive struggle.

The teams were tied at various stages throughout the first half at 11,17,19 and 28-points apiece respectively. Each team swapping momentum and the opportunity to showcase what their offense is about.

Slovakia continued to harness their determination from Saturday and Sunday to put themselves marginally ahead at the intermission on the final day, 35-32.

Ireland needed a spark in the second half and they duly got it, turning the tables on their opponents throughout the third quarter. Paul Kelleher’s team went on to take the lead 45-41 off the back of an excellent shooting run from inside the paint.

In the nitty gritty of the fourth quarter, Ireland never wilted and continued to play strong defense. They would prove to be very robust on the glass at either end, something that is a definite positive ahead of the European Championships.

On the back of this Ireland closed out the series on a score-line of 74-66. The lowest scoring contest of the three days but in many ways, the most pleasing for both teams.

Giving his thoughts in the aftermath, Head Coach Paul Kelleher said:

It was a very productive weekend. Results aside, one of our targets was to understand how to put three performances together like a block at the European Championships as they go 3-2-3. I think shows signs of doing that. We made strides in a number of areas, and it was nice to see. And we now know where we need to build consistency.

Personally, I’d really like to show appreciation to the NRC, Table Officials for their generosity & time to the National Team program this weekend. It was a true Irish Basketball community effort.

But the support shown during our games to the players and energy in the gym was nothing short of amazing and an experience the players have talked about all weekend. Thanks to all those who came out in support.