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Laois basketball players star as Ireland U-18 girls enjoy unbeaten start to European championships

Claire Melia, Ireland captain, in action against Snezhana Serafimoska of Macedonia during the FIBA U-18 Womens European Championship Division B match between Ireland and Macedonia

Two young basketball players from Portlaoise are starring with the Ireland U-18 girls team at this week’s European Championships which are being held in Dublin.

Claire Melia and Maeve Phelan, both from the Portlaoise Panthers club, are both involved with Monasterevin native Melia captaining the side that have won their first three games and are on course for a quarter-final place.

They beat Macedonia 79-43 on Friday and followed that up with a shock 84-46 win over Slovak Republic on Saturday. They then beat Moldova 116-25 on Sunday and are enjoying a rest day today before taking on a Great Britain side who are also unbeaten on Tuesday.

Ireland will then play Ukraine on Wednesday before the knockout stages begin on Friday. There are 24 teams competing in four groups of six in what is the ‘B’ grade championship. The top two in each group go through to the quarter-finals with the remaining playing off in classification games for 9th to 24th position.

The Ireland team ahead of the FIBA U-18 Womens European Championship Division B match between Ireland and Macedonia at the National Indoor Arena in Abbotstown

“That cheer when the first score went in was incredible,” said Phelan after Ireland’s opening day win. “We’ve never played in front of a crowd like this before and we just hope we can count on their support again.”

Melia came in for praise in the official report from Basketball Ireland as “one of the stand out stars of the game for the Irish, showing her hard work and skill in impressive fashion at both ends of the court”.

The report after the win over Slovak Republic also raved about her contribution. “Portlaoise Panthers star Claire Melia running rampant at both ends of the court, bagging her second double-double in as many games in style by the final buzzer (30 points, 10 rebounds).”

Ireland play Great Britain at 6.15pm on Tuesday in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght and it is being streamed live by FIBA, the sport’s governing body and can be watched here. 

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