Tullamore Basketball's U16 girls' basketball team made history last weekend as they became the first team from either girls or boys to reach a National Final at juvenile level.
The basketball competition pits all the regional winning sides together in two groups of four to see who progresses to the All Ireland semi-finals.
These pool games took place last Saturday. Tullamore faced old rivals St. Marys of Castleisland in the first game. Tullamore had beaten Castleisland for the first time in history at the Cork tournament earlier in the year.
The team were expecting a backlash and they got it as Castleisland proved to be a tough physical opponent, testing the mettle of the Midland girls. Thanks to some super baskets from Meadhbh O Brien who top-scored on 15 points and Emma Hand on 14, along with a high energy defensive shift from Sarah Jane Lynam the Tullamore girls came home winners by three points.
Their next game was always going to be the game of the tournament and so it proved to be. Brunell from Cork started strongly with a much taller and stronger outfit but as the game wore on the Tullamore girls’ superior fitness and bravery started to get the upper hand.
Ellie Glavin with 14 points led the way with Shauna Slattery on 7 contributing on the scoreboard while Aoife Farrell curtailed the much taller Brunell girls for the majority of the game. Tullamore led by 3 points with 14 seconds left on the clock but credit to the Cork champions who managed to draw the game with a last second 3 point shot.
The Tullamore girls were certainly feeling the pace as they faced into the 3 rd game of the day against Dublin powerhouses Templeogue. The Offaly side were showing the effects of the previous two tough games as they struggled to contain the Templeogue side who stretched out to a 12 point lead.
Two vital long range baskets from Mia O Mahoney kept Tullamore in touch but just when it seemed the midlanders were dead and buried in the third quarter, the shooter of the tournament Emma Glavin decided she was going to impact the game in an immense way. 4 made three-point shots later from Emma and Tullamore hit the front for the first time. Faith Greene followed the lead to knock down another of her trademark 3s and suddenly Tullamore were coasting home. The last minute provided a few scares but with a 42-40 victory Tullamore had amazingly topped the group and beyond their expectations had
qualified for the All Ireland Semi Final on the Sunday against the renowned basketball nursery Waterford Wildcats.
A good night of rest, lots of water and pasta and a few massages later and the Tullamore tyros were ready for action again. This game was Tullamore's finest performance of the weekend as they flowed into a sublime performance against a really good Waterford side.
After a tight first quarter Tullamore settled into a comfortable lead that they maintained until the end. Jean Carson's tough basket defence made an impression in this game as they defended a lead to run out 9 point winners meaning a regional side from well outside the basketball hotbeds was suddenly in an All Ireland final for the first time ever.
Tullamore's opponents were the famed Meteors club of South Dublin. The girls knew well the hurdle that they faced considering the opposition was stacked with four international u16 players. Tullamore took heart from knowing they had defeated Meteors in the U13 Limerick tournament and even more recently had missed a long 3 to beat them at the final of the Cork open tournament last October.
Unfortunately and despite the best efforts of Saraid McDonald and Lucy Fennelly late on plus the dead-eyed shooting once again of Emma Glavin who scored 10 points in the final, Meteors prevailed to run out deserving champions for 2019.
Tullamore missed the services of the injured Aoife Shaw and Eimear Galvin while Kate Healy will be underage next year and will provide some of the shooting power as Tullamore aim to get back to All Ireland level.
Tullamore Basketball thanked Colaiste Choilm on their generous sponsorship for the team during the weekend.