This past weekend I was honored to be a part of the first ever Belfast Classic. If you weren’t able to attend or see videos of the Belfast Classic, it was basketball tournament where four American Division I men’s basketball teams participated in a two day tournament. The four teams were Holy Cross, La Salle, Manhattan, and Towson. All four games were incredible, but Towson took home the championship trophy with an exciting victory over Manhattan on a buzzard beater shot. It was so exciting to see that level of basketball brought to Ireland. I was lucky enough to get a ride with a family from Maynooth to Belfast and I loved seeing the kids and their mothers’ enthusiasm as we drove to the tournament. The kids were asking how tall the players were if they were able to dunk the ball, so it was such a great opportunity for kids and their families, who truly love the game of basketball, to see first hand the size and talent of some players in America. There are so many talented athletes in Ireland, so bringing this level of basketball to Ireland and expanding the game is really great to see.
The games themselves was amazing, but what I was most impressed with was how beautifully put together the entire event was and how the atmosphere actually felt like a college, and even a professional, basketball game. During time outs kids were brought down from the stands and participated in different games on the court, and even received prizes afterwards. There were cheerleaders present who also performed during timeouts and half time. Big shout out to Manhattan for brining over their cheerleaders, dance team, and even their peep band! Dave Hopla, a legendary player and shooting coach, even made an appearance and blew the crowd away with his ability to make an unbelievable amount of shots consecutively. I was also graced with the presence of Kieran Donaghy, a Gaelic football star, who is basically a celebrity in Ireland. The U18 Irish Women’s National team was also recognized for their accomplishments over the summer, which I loved seeing because two of my teammates from Portlaosie were recognized!
The Belfast Classic was so meticulously planned out and I was honored to watch this event be brought to fruition. This weekend was the start of something new in Ireland and I cannot wait to see the continued success of the Belfast Classic. There are actually eight US teams coming next year, and these teams will be announced to the public soon! Basketball is growing in Ireland and I am so lucky to be a part of it all! Big shout out to the entire Sport Changes Life for all of their hard word and Gareth Maguire for his incredible vision.