RECAP: Disappointment for Ireland as Kosovo win semi-final
July 28, 2018
There was huge disappointment for the Ireland Under 18 men’s basketball team this evening as they lost out 69-55 to tournament hosts Kosovo in the semi-final of the FIBA U18 European Championship Division C.
The loss means that Ireland will now do battle for a bronze medal tomorrow (Sunday, July 29th) against Monaco.
Despite some fantastic patches of play from the boys in green, Kosovo just had too much strength and size down the stretch and dominated under the boards at both ends of the court to score some vital second chance scores in the paint. The Irish were also dealt a huge blow just before half time, as star point guard, Paul Kelly picked up an injury to rule him out of the remainder of the game.
Early on, it was Kosovo who had the better of the opening exchanges, as Ireland struggled to find their feet. Some great shooting from David Murray, Eoin McCann and James Connaire got them right back in it though as the first quarter ticked down, to trail 21-16 at the end of the quarter.
Boom Cillian O’Driscoll dunks home with 5.51 to play Q4 as Kosovo lead Ireland 59-48 in the semi-final of #FIBAU18Europe #COYBIG #GreenShoots #FIBAU18Europe Live stats here: https://t.co/YOkE3oBTBh @KPMG @ValentiaTech pic.twitter.com/6mETOtEG7y— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) July 28, 2018
A high intensity second quarter followed, with Kosovo’s captain Erhan Sholla leading the scoring for his side, while Rron Ukaj and Leon Neziri punished the Irish under the boards. Ireland’s Darragh O’Sullivan responded with some huge scores, with Conor Liston and Eoin Nelson adding some baskets to close the gap even further. Ireland were dealt a major blow just before half time though as point guard, Paul Kelly, was ruled out of the game after sustaining an injury, and Kosovo headed to the dressing room with a nine-point cushion, 39-30.
A huge three from Conor Liston sees Ireland close the gap with 2.25 to go Q2. It’s Kosovo 36 Ireland 25 #COYBIG #GreenShoots #FIBAU18Europe Live stats here: https://t.co/YOkE3oBTBh @KPMG @ValentiaTech pic.twitter.com/YnRWpoFWtj— Basketball Ireland (@BballIrl) July 28, 2018
A hugely physical third quarter followed, and Ireland’s Eoin McCann stepped up to the occasion in style. A number of big baskets in a row for him brought the game back to just three points by the midway mark (41-38), but a massive three-pointer for Kosovo, coupled with a well-timed time out saw momentum swing back in their favour to lead 53-44 going into the last.
The strength, physicality and sheer size of the hosts began to hurt in the fourth, with Sholla stretching his personal tally out to 15 points and Rilind Krasniqi also scoring well for the home team. Good play from Cillian O’Driscoll and O’Sullivan was just not enough for the Irish though, and they lost out 69-55 in the end.
Speaking afterwards head coach Paul Kelleher stated: “We knew it was going to be tough in front of a hostile crowd, but our boys played some really great basketball out there. The one thing they had over us was their size and physicality and that’s what beat us. They didn’t play great basketball, but we just didn’t have the size to match them on the glass.
“I thought our lads gave everything, a couple of shots didn’t drop for us, and it was a tough outing - one of those match ups where we couldn’t get going. Losing Paul Kelly just before half time was very tough for us. We’ll bounce back though and have a rattle for a medal tomorrow.”
Ireland now faces Monaco in a bronze medal play off on Sunday, July 29th. The confirmed fixture for this game will be posted on the Basketball Ireland website (www.basketballireland.ie) later this evening.
IRELAND : Paul Kelly, Jay Kavanagh, Nathan Moore, James Connaire (4), Cillian O’Driscoll (5), David Murray (5), Eoin McCann (17), Darragh O’Sullivan (17), Oisin Rice (2), Conor Liston (3), Matt Harper, Eoin Nelson (2).
Ireland Under 18 men’s Results – FIBA European Championship
Saturday, July 28th
Ireland 55-69 Kosovo
Event website: http://www.fiba.basketball/europe/u18c/2018