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Four Portlaoise Panthers included as Ireland squad finalised for U-20 Women’s Basketball European Challengers

Ireland U-20 women’s head coach Martin Conroy has announced his final roster of 12 players as they prepare to face Europe’s elite at the FIBA U20 Women’s European Challengers 2021 later this month.

Ciara Byrne will captain the side and is one of four Portlaoise Panthers players included in the panel – joined by Lisa Blaney, Jasmine Burke and Sarah Fleming.

Two Ulster University Tigers players, Erin Maguire and Abigail Rafferty, have also made the final dozen.

Molly Moffitt, of Seattle Prep, will make her Irish international debut, having flown in from Seattle, Washington after graduating from high school.

She gained her Irish citizenship through her grandparents, who originated from Claregalway.

Head coach Martin Conroy, who is from Portlaoise, acknowledged the difficulty of bringing the squad down to 12 ahead of the FIBA European Challengers.

He said: “For our coaching staff, this was an unbelievably difficult decision to select a tournament 12 to represent Ireland in the FIBA U20 Women’s European Challengers tournament in Sopron, Hungary.

“That decision was made even more difficult by the fantastic group of players that have committed themselves to the programme over the past eight weeks.

“Their dedication and efforts are truly phenomenal and we, as a staff, appreciate this.

“It’s exciting to move forward with these 12 players and we know that they will do our country proud when they play some of the best teams in Europe in ten days time.

“We have Spain, Hungary, Serbia, Czech Republic and Israel in our group, which is fantastic, and we look forward to pitting ourselves against these great teams in a tournament environment.

“An understatement would be to say it won’t be easy, but we’re confident that our players will be ready for the challenges we face.”

Ireland’s U-20 women are playing Division A basketball, having secured promotion following a bronze medal at the 2019 FIBA U20 Women’s European Championship Division B in Pristina, Kosovo.

They are in Group B at the FIBA U20 Women’s European Challengers 2021, it is a round robin tournament and Ireland start against hosts Hungary on Monday July 12.

It’s followed by games against Israel (July 13), Spain (July 14), Serbia (July 16) and Czech Republic (July 17).

IRELAND U20 WOMEN’S SQUAD:

Lisa Blaney (Portlaoise Panthers), Jasmine Burke (Portlaoise Panthers), Ciara Byrne (Portlaoise Panthers), Lauren Darcy (Templeogue BC), Sarah Fleming (Portlaoise Panthers), Mia Furlong (Glanmire), Kate Hickey (Waterford Wildcats), Niamh Kenny (Trinity Meteors), Erin Maguire (Ulster University Tigers), Molly Moffitt (Seattle Prep), Eve Nealon (Shippensberg University), Abigail Rafferty (Ulster University Tigers)

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Stradbally native Alan Hartnett is a graduate of Knockbeg College who has worked in the local and national media since 2008. Alan has a BA in Economics, Politics and Law and an MA in Journalism from DCU. His happiest moment was when Jody Dillon scored THAT goal in the Laois senior football final in 2016.