Loreto battle against the odds to become All-Ireland champions

By Maurice Garvey

A WOMEN’S school basketball team have battled the odds and a lack of state funding, to become All-Ireland champions for the second year in a row.

The achievement of Loreto College Crumlin under-19B basketball team is made all the more remarkable by the fact that their court is located in what is effectively a multi-purpose school hall with a piano for company.

Loreto College 04 06042017

The hall is used for sports, PE, concerts, carol services, school assemblies and ceremonies throughout the year.

Applications by the school for sports hall funding as far back as 1994 proved unsuccessful, and the recession blocked court improvements in recent years.

“In my 13 years as coach, we have never played Foxrock or Bray at home,” said Loreto Basketball Coach Darren McGuiness.
“We mostly play away but are fortunate that the Oblates in Inchicore allow us to play there if they can fit us in. Even in cup games, we have to give up home advantage.”

McGuiness says the lack of proper lines or standard net heights, present a challenge for his junior and senior teams.

He continued: “I try to teach the players visual lines, because we don’t have any lines on the court. The net is six feet high but it should be ten, and I had to get up on a chair to draw a red square behind the net.”

Despite this, Loreto College secured their second U-19 All-Ireland in a row after defeating Gort in the National Basketball Arena in January.

Two of the Loreto team – Ciara White and Claire Quinn-Nealon – are also Irish internationals.

Loreto Principal Blathnaid Colhoun said the concert hall is the schools “only indoor facility” and whilst the piano has “always been there”, the college’s basketball success is “more recent.”

Ms Colhoun said: “There is a level of frustration at the lack of facilities, but a great school spirit has been generated as a result of the team’s success over the last couple of years. We do have two astro pitches which were opened only last year but they are not suited to basketball practice.

“Applications were put into the Department of Education for a sports hall in 1994 and again in 2007 but without success. At the time of the second application, our position was actually moved up. However, the recession followed and nothing came of the building.”

Whilst there are other Loreto Colleges in Dublin, each one is independently funded by the government, and only four out of 18 are fee charging.

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