John Carroll waited long enough to get his chance to play competitive hoops for Ireland. Now that he’s got it, he’s determined to stay unbeaten in competitive action while wearing a green jersey for as long as possible. Emmet Ryan watched him as Ireland moved to 3-0 at the FIBA European Championships for Small Countries
John Carroll clearly came to play. After a quieter second game than his dominant opener, still one that was far from shabby, the Dublin big man was in a mood to hurt Gibraltar in the early going.
While far from averse to a three, it’s not all that often it’s the first shot you see him put up let alone make. Carroll had pain on his mind and he wanted to break the men from the Rock. There was little doubt going into the game that this was going to be a long evening and the 13-0 start put in by the men in green quickly removed whatever was left.
The start to Carroll’s pro career couldn’t have been more stuttering if he’d designed it that way. First came bad injury problems in his debut campaign, then the pandemic hit. It’s an unfortunate turn of events after he impressed mightily at Hartford, particularly in his final two seasons with the Hawks.
He has rallied and impressed in Spain this past season but this week has been his first tasting competitive ball with Ireland’s senior team and through these three opening games, he has been keen to balance efficiency with aggression as he gets ready for a year that should, hopefully, have fewer external factors getting in the way.
Gibraltar’s play through the early games was noted for its physicality but that was really hard to spot on this night in Dublin as he glided through the paint with ease. Against Andorra, Carroll had bulldozed to his heart’s content but he could change things up a little here to simply pick the smart step.
After getting into an amusing Twitter debate with his teammates during the week over whether or not he actually made a dunk against San Marino, Carroll was leaning towards not, he left no doubt with a casual but emphatic finish early in the third quarter of this blowout.
He finished up with an efficient night, 14 points on 6 of 9 shooting to go with 3 rebounds and 1 ast in 17 minutes. The final score, a 113-63 blowout ensured that nobody was going to be logging wild minutes although there was still drama at the end as a Neil Randolph three-ball rimmed out on the buzzer. Had it gone in, Ireland would have set a new single game scoring record in tournament history. Instead their 114 haul against the same opponent on 14 December 1988, the very first day in the very first edition of the competition remains intact.
The early game of the day was an absolute belter. Despite holding a 9 point lead at the end of the first quarter, Malta looked anything but a sure thing against Andorra and the men from the mountains roared back to lead by 6 at the half. With both sides still very much alive in the title race, albeit with Andorra relying on other results, this one proved to easily be the game of the tournament so far.
Andorra surged into command as the third quarter progressed before tensions boiled over on the Maltese bench with players at one another and having to be separated during a timeout. The win secured Andorra at least bronze, leaves them almost certain to get at least silver, and they still have an outside chance of gold should Malta win against Ireland on Sunday and the tiebreakers go their way.