Irish Basketball - A Brief History

Most people think that basketball is a relatively new sport in Ireland that was introduced to us as another "American sport". 

The truth is actually completely opposite. Basketball is not a new import to this country, but has actually been played here since the early 1920's when Sergeant Major Doogan first introduced the sport into the army.


1920 : Sergeant Major Doogan first introduced the sport into the army. Initially it was regarded as an auxiliary gymnasium exercise for boxers in training but before long it gained the status of a game in its own right and basketball has remained popular in the army ever since.

1925: By this date there were two strong championships in existence in the Curragh.

1945:  In March 1945, the first club was formed in University College Dublin.

1946: The first Intervarsity Competition was held.

1945:  Formation of the Amateur Basketball Association of Ireland (ABAI)

1947: Irish Basketball becomes affiliated with FIBA and basketball becomes established as a recognised sport in Ireland.

1947: The first Area Board, (Dublin County Board) was set up.

1948: The first Leinster Championships were held.

1948:  Ireland sends a basketball team to the 1948 Olympics, which were held in a post-war Britain that was still recovering from the effects of World War 2. There was no qualification system for teams participating - this was the only time in the history of Irish basketball that we had a representative team at the Olympics.

1971: The first Men's National Leagues were introduced (1971/72).

1979: Women's National Leagues begin in the 1979/80 season.

1979: A modern era of men's National Leagues began when St. Vincent's, Killarney introduced the first American professional players for the 1979/80 season.

1980: The name of the association changed from the original ABAI to the Irish Basketball Association (IBA).

1993: Ireland's premier indoor sports facility and the home of Irish basketball, the National Basketball Arena, was opened in Tymon Park, Tallaght, Dublin, in January 1993.

1994: Ireland, captained by Mark Keenan, win the 1994 FIBA Promotions Cup. The tournament was hosted at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin. It is Ireland's first senior European title.

1997: Irish basketball celebrates its 50th Anniversary - and members of the 1948 Olympic squad were present at a reception to honour the founding members of Irish basketball in the National Basketball Arena.

2001: The Irish senior men reach the semi-final qualifying round for the 2003 European Championships.

2003: IBA restructured and re-branded as Basketball Ireland (BI).

2015: Ireland women's 3x3 team finish 8th at the 2015 European Games, which were hosted in Baku, Azerbaijan. The team is comprised of Niamh Dwyer, Gráinne Dwyer, Suzanne Maguire and Orla O'Reilly.

2016: Ireland hosts FIBA Congress in Dublin.

2017: Ireland Under 18 women secured a silver medal and promotion to Division A basketball for the first time in the country's history at a memorable European Championships hosted in Dublin. 

2018: Ireland host FIBA Women's European Championship for Small Countries at Mardyke Arena in Cork.

2021: Ireland's senior men win the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries, with the tournament hosted at the National Basketball Arena. Ireland's women finish second in FIBA European Championship for Small Countries.

2021: Ireland's men's and women's teams re-enter FIBA EuroBasket and FIBA Women's EuroBasket. 

2024: Ireland's men's team play in FIBA Basketball World Cup 2027 European Pre-Qualifiers. It is the first time Ireland has competed at FIBA World Cup level, with first qualifier against Kosovo in Prishtina in February 2024.

Basketball in Ireland Today

Basketball Ireland (BI) is the National Governing Body for Basketball in Ireland

The Association has responsibility for the promotion, development and administration of all basketball activities in Ireland and Northern Ireland.  The primary focus of Basketball Ireland is to increase the participation levels of basketball throughout Ireland and to provide professionally managed courses, competitions, leagues and services to the basketball public.

The Board of Basketball Ireland, comprised of voluntary members, governs overall policy.

Irish basketball is, according to verifiable statistics:

  • Among the top six participation sports in Ireland
  • Number one sport for females under 16
  • Ireland's number 1 indoor sport
  • Has over 250 clubs nationwide
  • Has a 50/50 participation split between male and female
  • The Census At School survey had basketball at number 3 of sports preferred by teenagers.
  • Is played in hundreds of schools on the island of Ireland and in most communities
  • Has a community of players, coaches, officials, volunteers and fans approaching 800,000 people