Ireland Senior Women excel in two game series with high ranked Portugal

Ireland Senior Women excel in two game series with high ranked Portugal Ireland Senior Women excel in two game series with high ranked Portugal

Ireland's senior women concluded their two-game series against Portugal with a hard-working performance that ended in a 72-62 defeat in Porto. They now turn their attention to a FIBA EuroBasket qualifier in Dublin this November.

After a defeat in the first game of the series yesterday, a good start was pivotal for James Weldon’s side. In last weekend’s series against Estonia, sluggish starts were also a common theme. From the tip-off, it was a nightmare run for Ireland, seeing the Portuguese go on a 10-0 run from the off, leaving Ireland with plenty of work to do.

A couple of free throws from Bridget Herlihy got the scoreboard ticking for Ireland, kickstarting an impressive run for the team to go in with the scores at 17-9 after the first.

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Enya Maguire was introduced from the bench and won her fair share of defensive rebounds, but it was Michelle Clarke who starred for Ireland from that point on, scoring 11 points before the interval, including a trio of threes. While Ireland had their hot streaks, so did their opponents, as they went in with a 36-26 lead at the break.

The third quarter started in a similar manner to the first. Portugal stretched their lead with a 7-0 run to leave Weldon’s team with a mountain to climb at 43-26. To their credit, the likes of Claire Melia and captain Edel Thornton were up to the task of bridging the gap, while newcomer to the senior set-up, Kate Hickey stepped to the line for some important free-throws that were converted.

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It was going to be a real test of Ireland’s mettle in the fourth, being down by 17 points, but the hardworking Ireland side made a game of it. Bridget Herlihy clocked up six rebounds throughout the game to swing the impetus in Ireland’s favour when it was needed. Michelle Clarke and Dayna Finn kickstarted a 13-2 run for Ireland, putting them right back in contention with four minutes to go. Clarke ended up with 19 points in total, shooting 62% from the three-point line.

The Portugal side showed their nous from there on in, making the most of the ball and stifling the Irish offence. Another three from Michelle Clarke and some late points from Herlihy weren’t enough to bridge the gap, as Portugal won the contest on a 72-62 scoreline.

Speaking after the game, head coach James Weldon said:

“I thought it was a better performance today. I thought that they handled the pressure and the physicality much better. We continued where we left off with shooting the ball, we shot really well. All in all, a very solid performance against an excellent Portugal team.”

Overall, a positive experience for James Weldon’s side against tough opposition. They will be ruing being slow out of the blocks in the first and this quarters, but there were plenty of positives in the series. Eight newcomers were named on the panel for the Estonia and Portugal games and they seemed to gel well with the team, with Bridget Herlihy looking like a player that will be very useful when Netherlands visit the National Basketball Arena in late November.

Quarter scores (POR v IRL)

Q1: 17-9

Q2: 19-17 (36-26)

Q3: 24-17 (60-43)

Q4: 12-19 (72-62)

Top three scorers

Portugal  -Maria Correia 17 points, Maria Kostourkova 11 points, Marcia Robalo 9 points.

Ireland - Michelle Clarke 19 points, Bridget Herlihy 15 points, Edel Thornton 7 points

Ireland squad:

Michelle Clarke (19), Dayna Finn (6), Rachel Huijsdens (2), Edel Thornton (7), Claire Melia (5), Sarah Kenny (2), Aine O’Connor (4), Maeve Phelan, Bronagh Power-Cassidy, Enya Maguire, Bridget Herlihy (15), Kate Hickey (2).

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