Earlier today BiE exclusively revealed that Ireland would return to international basketball in 2015 after a 5 year absence. Emmet Ryan takes a brief look at history of Ireland’s men in the international game.
Despite exactly zero appearances in EuroBasket or the FIBA World Cup, Ireland has made it to the Olympics in basketball. It was 1948, a rather different era in the sport, and the best way to describe Ireland’s performance is that they were really, really, out of our depth. Still, it remains the sole major finals Ireland has participated in and the 1948 team is still revered in Ireland.
For most of Ireland’s existence in the international game, pretty much nothing happened. Then the breakthrough finally came. In 1994 Ireland topped Cyprus 81-78 at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght to take the Promotions Cup, moving the nation up to the B Division in EuroBasket. This was the start of the peak run for the national men’s team. In 2005 Denmark edged Ireland in a two-legged final qualifier to deny promotion to the top flight. At the time the star player for the men in green was Pat Burke. He was the human victory cigar for the Phoenix Suns but remains the lone Irish born player to suit up in the NBA.
The last competitive action for Ireland at international level came in the qualifiers for EuroBasket 2009, where a 2-6 finish left them well out of contention for the final stages. In 2010, Ireland formally exited the international field. Players still suited up for clubs overseas but the green jersey wasn’t an option. The first signs of a return came when a select team made up of Irish league players beat their BBL counterparts in 2013. Follow up fixtures against a Welsh select and the BBL again came this past season before the big news of today.
Finally, after 5 years in the wilderness, the road back has begun. Next up, getting the women’s senior team back on the block.