FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers
By Pat Costello
CIARA Bracken of Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics is one of two uncapped players included by Ireland senior women’s Basketball head coach, James Weldon, in his final 12-person squad for their FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers game against the Netherlands on 27 November at the National Basketball Arena.
Bracken, 21 years old, makes the breakthrough to senior level along with Waterford Wildcats’ Sarah Hickey having previously represented Ireland through the underage ranks. Another Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics’ player, Sorcha Tiernan, returns to the squad after missing the previous international window due to injury and travel commitments respectively.
Other Kildare players in the final squad are the outstanding pair of Claire Melia (Monasterevin), now with Trinity Meteors, Áine O’Connor of Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics and American-born Bridget Herlihy, who plays with Mark Basket Marbo Kinna in Sweden.
Returning to the fold after a 13-year absence is Orla O’Reilly. Head coach Weldon, who has been in constant dialogue with the 32-year-old since he took charge of the Irish team in 2018, has rewarded O’Reilly’s fine form in Australia with a call-up for the tie. She was a key part of the Ireland squad who reached the last eight of the FIBA 3×3 European Games in Azerbaijan in 2015.
O’Reilly’s inclusion adds significant experience to a squad, already boasting Claire Melia and Trinity Meteors colleague, Dayna Finn, Ireland senior women’s captain Edel Thornton, as well as Rachel Huijsdens and Killester’s Michelle Clarke, who all have been in scintillating form to start the MissQuote.ie Super League season.
Head coach, James Weldon, said: “We are really looking forward to the upcoming FIBA EuroBasket window. We believe that the experience of Orla O’Reilly, as a seasoned Irish professional, will be of immense value to the team we’ve selected, as we transition the younger players into the team. Sarah Hickey and Ciara Bracken are in line for their first senior caps and we believe that we have a good blend of youth and experience in the team that we’ve selected. The management is also encouraged by the impressive performances the players are putting in the league for their respective clubs. The team have great spirit and belief in their ability, in what is a very tough pool. We are confident that we can take the win if we all turn up in character and play with the same form they are showing at the moment.”
The game tips off at 5.15pm on Sunday week, with live coverage on TG4 starting at 5pm. Ireland lost 82-60 to the Netherlands in Amsterdam last November and are currently third in the three-team Group I, seeking their first win. The group winners and the four best runners-up will advance to the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023, which is co-hosted by Israel and Slovenia.
Ireland Senior Women’s Squad V Netherlands, 27 November, National Basketball Arena, 5.15pm
Ciara Bracken (Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics)*, Michelle Clarke (Killester), Dayna Finn (Trinity Meteors), Bridget Herlihy (Mark Basket Marbo Kinna, Sweden), Sarah Hickey (Waterford Wildcats)*, Rachel Huijsdens (DCU Mercy), Claire Melia (Trinity Meteors), Áine O’Connor (Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics), Orla O’Reilly (Waverly Falcons, Australia), Edel Thornton (Singleton SuperValu Brunell) (captain), Hannah Thornton (DCU Mercy), Sorcha Tiernan (Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics).
(NOTE: * denotes uncapped player)
Mia Furlong (The Address UCC Glanmire), Kate Hickey (Waterford Wildcats), Sarah Kenny (Trinity Meteors), Maeve Phelan (DCU Mercy).