Irish men’s coach Mark Keenan is hoping for a bright future for basketball in the country as his side prepare for two crucial games in their FIBA EuroBasket 2025 pre-qualifying campaign.
The Irish take on Switzerland in Freiburg on Thursday, followed by a home game against Cyprus at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin next Sunday.
Austria are also part of the group of four teams, with the winner of each and the best runner-up of the three groups qualifying for the next phase.
Keenan’s troops began their campaign with an away victory against the Cypriots, before a home defeat against Austria.
The head coach is hoping Ireland will give him a “good bitch” against Switzerland ahead of a home date and the backing of a vocal crowd for the comeback clash with Cyprus.
Speaking to RTÉ Sport, he said: “We are slowly recovering everyone and trying to build momentum and positivity within the squad for these games.
“It was a great start to the campaign (against Cyprus), we played particularly well that night. We were a bit flat against Austria then. There are lessons to be learned in this kind of international window, Thursday’s recovery is huge.
“We need a win to stay in the chase and qualify out of the group. That’s our goal.
“The Swiss had a win and a loss.
“They were seeded before any game. Top tier in Europe. Austria got a good win against them. We can definitely go and face the Swiss. We are confident in our own abilities and the players we have. We’re going to give him a good rant.
“If we can play at our highest level, we will push these teams all the way. We believe we have a chance to win, but we still have to perform.”
The Ireland men’s basketball team are gearing up for a busy week in which they will face Switzerland and Cyprus in the FIBA EuroBasket 2025 pre-qualifying matches. #RTESport pic.twitter.com/OHnmpWnYt4
— RTE Sport (@RTEsport) February 22, 2022
In the years 2010-2015, the men’s team of Ireland, due to financial difficulties, did not compete internationally. But with the domestic game at a high level and the success of the Small Countries European Championship last year, there is once again a positivity around men’s football.
“It’s a good time again and we’re trying to build momentum,” added Keenan.
“The senior men’s team must be a shining light for young players who can aspire to cross the age groups.
“[The Small Countries] was great. The team performed very well and outperformed all of these teams this summer. We lobbied the association to take us to the next level. It’s a big challenge to face Austria and Switzerland. We can’t make up numbers, we really have to get down to it.
“We’ve never had an Irishman playing professionally abroad before. There’s a great crop of U-20 players coming in. The future is very bright if we manage it well and put resources behind the team. It’s the start of something, hopefully better come.”