St Malachy’s College

Ireland U16 Squad Teaches Local Hoopers a Lesson (or Two)

When Tony McGaharan asked me to play in a pick-up game against the Ireland U-16 team, I said sure. It would be a nice practice for TCC’s Wingfoot Summer League, and we’d probably beat up on some kids in the process, no big deal.

Ireland U16 2013

Kelleher’s team were well drilled

Except, not so much. First of all, the players were plenty big. When I showed up to St. Malachy’s College on Saturday, July 6, with Tony and his brother, I knew I had gotten myself into something more serious than I had anticipated. The youngsters sported their flashy green uniforms and warmed up seriously with their coach, Paul Kelleher, barking instructions. A pile of blue jerseys awaited my team, a last-minute, pieced-together group of out-of-shape, Belfast-adult hoopers.

The green jerseys played with great organisation. For the forty minutes, the U-16s proceeded to teach us lesson after lesson, executing with great precision all the different aspects of the game: screening, moving, passing, aggressive defence, fast-breaking, and shooting. Boy, did they shoot. It seems like at any given time, they had three or four guys on the floor who were capable of knocking the three-point shot down with consistency. I came away impressed with the degree to which each player seemed to understand his role on the floor.

Ireland U16 Challenge Team Belfast 2013

Not sure why we were smiling with the final score in the backdrop….
(L-R- Back Row: Ben Horner, Conor McQuillan, Mark Galway, Paddy McGaharan, Chris Schumerth… Front: Tony McGaharan, Gerard Ryan, Stephen Fox)

My team, on the other hand, tried desperately to come up with any sort of offensive or defensive strategy. With the game being played at a much quicker pace than our summer league, we were peeling over and sucking air by the time the first quarter ended. Our opponents were in potentially the peak physical condition of their lives, after all. After an unnecessary buzzer-beating layup, the Ireland team went on to win the game 97-67. By then, we were just glad for the workout and that the beat-down was over.

“When they work hard, everything else becomes easier,” Kelleher said after the exhibition win.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Ireland U-16s, they pull from both Ireland and Northern Ireland, and they’ve been playing together since October of 2011. They split their practices between the places — Cork, Dublin, Belfast — from which they draw players. Right now, they’re training three times a week, but those days can include as much as six hours on the court.

Over the course of the next month, the team will travel to places like Luxembourg and Portugal, as well as play in a tournament in Cork and even take on an American Athletic Union (AAU) team from the United States. The build-up is toward the European Championships in Bosnia, where the Ireland group will play eight games in the B Division starting on August 18.

Paul Dick: ‘There’s never a boring moment’

“It’s a transition being back”

So, the last time you heard from me not too much had happened. The last few weeks have just been practice, practice, and more practice. We have had two scrimmages this past week. Practice has been cool. Our team is deep, so it’s always really competitive and the majority of the practice is live stuff. We’re always getting up and down the floor trying to put ourselves in game situations –

There’s never a boring moment.

Our first scrimmage was against Dartmouth. Although we won by three, we felt like it was a team we should beat by a lot more. Our team performance was solid but there was plenty of room for improvement. Personally, I didn’t show up for the game. I came off the bench as 6th man and contributed just two points. I found it hard to get into the game, but I’m putting that one down to nerves. I was also a little mad about coming off-the-bench but that might be my role this year and I will have to learn to adapt to it – for a while, at least.

The second scrimmage wasn’t as competitive. We played a D3 team from Boston and won comfortably.  As it was a scrimmage we were running everyone in and out every few minutes: I didn’t see that much action. I came off-the-bench again and was a little bit better than the first scrimmage, contributing 11 points with a nice little dunk on the break. I’m happy I’m making progress. After not playing a real game for 2 years, the transition of playing team basketball again is the biggest obstacle at the moment. I think it’ll take a few games to get my mind sharp again, to compete at game standard. However, I’m still very excited for the season.

We open up next Friday at home against another top D2 team. It will be a good game. More importantly than all that though is how dominant my fantasy NBA team is looking. I’m only a few days off my first victory against my old Belfast Star and St Malachy’s teammate, Matthew ‘’Superstar’’ Jackson. I cant’t wait to collect my winnings next summer!

“Jackson’s face when he loses our NBA Fantasy team comp”
(Photo: Sportsfile)

You will hear from me again soon. I hope all is good back home.

Paul was the first player featured on The Courtside Collective; he is currently one of only two players from N.I. playing college basketball in the USA. Paul attends Franklin Pierce, a Division 2 school in New England, and is on a full scholarship. He spent last year as a ‘red-shirt’, missing out on an entire season due to a serious foot injury. This year he is back in action and the sky is the limit for the former St Malachy’s College baller. We are happy to have Paul onboard as a regular contributor.

Read Paul’s bio at Franklin Pierce