McCleane makes senior Irish debut after late call

Kara McCleane became the first Galway player in 14 years to make her debut for the senior Irish women’s side when she came off the bench in Sunday’s FIBA qualifier against France in the National Basketball Arena in Dublin

Despite being voted as the second-best player in the Women’s Super League for October by the rest of the players in the league, the Killannin woman was disgracefully cut from the initial 12-player squad for the game, having been part of the extended squad.

However, when Irish captain, Edel Thornton, was ruled out of the game with a broken nose, McCleane was added to the panel on Thursday, and when she stepped onto the court, she bridged a 14-year gap to the last Galway debutant for the senior Irish women’s side in the 100-48 defeat to the French.

That 2009 appearance was by Claire Rockall, who made her senior Irish debut in August 2009 at home to the Netherlands. She played two more games before Basketball Ireland was then forced to scrap its international aides until 2016 due to financial problems.

McCleane’s debut could be the start of a wave of new Galway stars making the step-up to the senior national side after a number of Galway players were name don the U-17 International Academy programmes.

The Maree BC trio of Kate Burke, Aisling Jordan, and Jessica Ross were all named in the Girls’ Academy; while four Galway players have been named selected for the Boys Academy: the Titans duo of Valentino Edobor and Stephan Quinn, and the Maigh Cuilinn pair of Eoin Cleary and Cian Walsh.

The latest Irish star will be back in club action this Saturday when Mystics take on Portlaoise Panthers in the Kingfisher Sports Arena on Saturday (4pm). It will be a meeting of the bottom two in the division, with Mystics on a 0-6 record going into the game, while Panthers are marginally better with a 1-6 record.

Pictured: Kara McCleane in action on her Irish debut last Sunday against Leila Lacan of France in the FIBA Eurobasket qualifier in Dublin. Photo: INPHO/Ben Brady.

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