Ireland were beaten 69-59 by Luxembourg in the final of the FIBA European Championship for Small Countries in Nicosia, Cyprus. Dayna Finn top scored for Ireland with 17 points, in a fine individual performance which also included seven blocks, two assists and one steal. Ireland held an early 7-4 advantage after a Finn driving layup – she picked up seven points in total in the first quarter. Luxembourg took command after that in the opening quarter and raced into a 27-15 lead, Nadia Mossong was to the fore with an 11 point personal haul in the quarter. Ireland reduced the arrears in the final minute of the quarter, thanks to a lovely three pointer from Edel Thornton, followed by a layup by Aine O’Connor, which saw them trail 27-20.
That seemed to rejuvenate Ireland as they continued to fight their way back into the contest in the second quarter. A Dayna Finn three pointer made it 32 points apiece with a little over five minutes gone in the quarter. Ireland’s defence was far sharper in the second quarter, illustrated by a nice block by Claire Melia which sparked a quick counter, finished off by Gráinne Dwyer that moved Ireland into the lead, 36-34, with just over four minutes to go in the quarter. The sides traded points and went into the break level, at 41-41.
Ireland appeared set to continue their second quarter momentum into the third, a fadeaway jump shot by Fiona O’Dwyer and a Dayna Finn layup in the opening minute pushed them into a 45-41 lead. However, bar one Michelle Clarke free-throw midway through the quarter, Ireland failed to register any more points, as Luxembourg pulled away, to lead 58-46 going into the final quarter. Ireland continued to battle bravely and outscored their opponents 13-11 in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t narrow the deficit any further, losing by ten points, 69-59.
Speaking afterwards, head coach James Weldon said: “I suppose we had a bit of a slow start, we came back into the game a little bit, fair play to the girls they dug deep, again, as they have all tournament. Again the third quarter we struggled against their press a small bit, just from the point of view we had to make the shot clock the whole time and it knocked us out of sync. You have to credit Luxembourg, they came out and did a great job defensively on us. In fairness, our girls never stopped playing.”