Uncapped duo Sarah Hickey and Ciara Bracken have been included in James Weldon's 12-person Ireland squad for the upcoming FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifier with the Netherlands.
Hickey, who plays with Waterford Wildcats, featured for both the U18 and U20 Ireland women's teams in this summer’s FIBA European Championships, while Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics' Ciara Bracken has also played underage basketball for her country.
American-born Bridget Herlihy, who plays with Mark Basket Marbo Kinna in Sweden, is set for a FIBA Women’s EuroBasket debut against the Dutch, following an impressive bow at international level in friendlies against Estonia and Portugal in August. DCU Mercy’s Hannah Thornton and Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics’ Sorcha Tiernan return to the squad after missing the previous international window due to injury and travel commitments respectively.
Also returning to the fold after a 13-year absence is Orla O'Reilly. Head coach Weldon, who has been in constant dialogue with the 32-year-old since he took charge of the Irish team in 2018, has rewarded O’Reilly’s fine form in Australia with a call-up for the tie. She was a key part of the Ireland squad who reached the last eight of the FIBA 3x3 European Games in Azerbaijan in 2015.
Her inclusion adds significant experience to a squad, already boasting Trinity Meteors pair Claire Melia and Dayna Finn, Ireland senior women’s captain Edel Thornton, as well as Rachel Huijsdens and Killester’s Michelle Clarke, who all have been in scintillating form to start the MissQuote.ie Super League season.
"We believe that the experience of Orla O’Reilly, as a seasoned Irish professional, will be of immense value to the team we’ve selected, as we transition the younger players into the team," said head coach James Weldon.
"Sarah Hickey and Ciara Bracken are in line for their first senior caps and we believe that we have a good blend of youth and experience in the team that we’ve selected. The management is also encouraged by the impressive performances the players are putting in the league for their respective clubs.
"The team have great spirit and belief in their ability, in what is a very tough pool. We are confident that we can take the win if we all turn up in character and play with the same form they are showing at the moment."
The game tips off at 1715 on 27 November.
Ireland lost 82-60 to the Netherlands in Amsterdam last November and are currently third in the three-team Group I, seeking their first win. The group winners and the four best runners-up will advance to the FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2023, which is co-hosted by Israel and Slovenia.
Ciara Bracken (Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics), Michelle Clarke (Killester), Dayna Finn (Trinity Meteors), Bridget Herlihy (Mark Basket Marbo Kinna, Sweden), Sarah Hickey (Waterford Wildcats), Rachel Huijsdens (DCU Mercy), Claire Melia (Trinity Meteors), Áine O'Connor (Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics), Orla O’Reilly (Waverly Falcons, Australia), Edel Thornton (Singleton SuperValu Brunell) (captain), Hannah Thornton (DCU Mercy), Sorcha Tiernan (Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics).
Mia Furlong (The Address UCC Glanmire), Kate Hickey (Waterford Wildcats), Sarah Kenny (Trinity Meteors), Maeve Phelan (DCU Mercy).