Dublin Basketball Challenge brings American basketball back to Ireland, but impact extends beyond game time as young players and student athletes get inspired by sport
American college basketball returned to the Island of Ireland at the weekend as the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght became the venue of the MAAC / ASUN Dublin Basketball Challenge, presented by Inspirus Sports.
Attended by over 3,600 fans who travelled from as far as the United States and as close as Dublin, the atmosphere resembled that of March Madness, complete with marching band, cheer and dance teams and a loveable college mascot in the form of Marist’s Frankie the fox. The jam-packed, two-day event featured four men’s teams from University of Central Arkansas, New York’s Niagara University, Stetson University from Florida and New Jersey’s Rider College, and four women’s teams from Rider College, New York’s Marist College, University of North Florida, and Eastern Kentucky University.
Commenting on the success of the Dublin Challenge Marc Mulholland, Executive Director and Executive Producer, said, “Following two successful years of the Belfast Classic before the pandemic, we were delighted to bring American basketball back to Ireland with the presentation of the Dublin Basketball Challenge. Expanding the line-up to include women’s teams was important to us as the strength of the women’s game continues to grow in Ireland, and we were delighted to welcome four outstanding women’s teams to join the men’s line-upas fans were treated to back-to-back games across four sessions.”
“Inspirus, working alongside the Sport Changes Life foundation, were proud to offer the chance for young players and fans alike on a local level to experience first-hand the outstanding level of competition and skill within the college game Stateside. We hope we were able to inspire more young people to pursue the sport and explore the opportunities it can present – including using basketball as a vehicle for pursuing education opportunities to play abroad.”
In addition to playing two games each over the two-day Challenge, teams also visited and engaged with primary schools across Dublin, getting up close and personal with the sport on a grassroots level and forming bonds which extended from the classroom into the National Stadium, as many of the groups later attended the Challenge to cheer on their new basketball heroes.
“In bringing the MAAC/ASUN Challenge to Dublin, the conferences sought to increase their brand recognition and provide their basketball teams an international travel experience that the busy, year-long commitment of the athletes often precludes. These goals were achieved beyond expectations as the host, Inspirus Sports, provided us with tremendous community engagement experiences at primary schools throughout Dublin.” Said Rich Ensor, Commissioner of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC).
“Capping off the week were great games between the eight teams at the National Basketball Arena. Marist won the first ever NCAA D1 women’s basketball game ever held in Europe, which is an appropriate addition to retiring Coach Brian Giorgis’ career record,” he added.
Commenting on the impact the trip had for student athletes beyond the court Ted Gumbart, Commissioner for the ASUN Conference, added, “While our focus is athletics, we are all teammates in education. Bringing eight teams of student-athletes to Dublin provided a fantastic educational opportunity, a true lifetime experience, and having our teams visit local Irish schools made a great connection with the students here."
“Putting this event together took a lot of effort, from the local team at Inspirus and at Basketball Ireland to the MAAC and ASUN staff, to all the folks that helped with execution of the plans. The final result has been very gracious and thankful players and coaches. That makes this MAAC/ASUN Challenge in Dublin a huge win for everyone.”
Following the success of the Dublin Basketball Classic, the Inspirus Sports team now sets their sights on the upcoming London Basketball Classic which will take place on Thursday 24thand Saturday 26th November in London’s Copper Box Arena consist of the men’s basketball teams from Manhattan College, Northeastern University, Princeton University and Army going head-to-head over a two-day tournament.
For more information visit https://www.inspirussports.com/.