Ireland’s few players across continental European leagues have reached the playoff stages of their seasons and Emmet Ryan is doing what he can to keep track
A spice bag is a wonderful creation. It’s crispy chilli chicken with chips (fries for most of the world), some bizarre assortment of spices and the tiniest garnish of fried vegetables (mostly chilli and onions). I’ve eaten a lot of them and nowhere does them better than Xi’an on South Anne St in Dublin. Their spice bag is the undisputed best for me in terms of flavour, despite them eschewing MSG which is a rather risky move because we all know that MSG is the king of flavour.
It was in Xi’an, with one of these mighty dishes before me with a coke and a tub of curry sauce that I opened up the Deutschland Sport app, paid my €3.50, and tuned into a game in Ehingen. It’s in the southwest of Germany. The sports hall appeared to have a second smaller stand at one end but only the primary sideline one appeared to be in use as the home side welcomed Lokomotiv Bernau in a must-win game in the last 16 round of the Pro B playoffs.
I mean, I needed the ideal backdrop to watch Pat Lyons play in the post-season…oh by the way, sorry Pat but I had to steal the photo from your Instagram.
Lyons is one of three Irish players who are playing pro hoops on the continent this season. It’s not exactly huge money but he gets to raise his game and see how far he can bring himself as a baller.
I met him in Berlin pre-season to grab a drink, although he was so new to the city that I picked where we drank. He’s far more of a local in Bernau and the broader Berlin area now but it was the start of his adventure. I was in town for EuroBasket, which somehow feels even longer ago than it was, but made my way across town to see him play a pre-season game on the day between the second semi and the final. There was a rookie American who was playing with veteran nous called Isiah Small out there for Bernau who was crazily efficient.
As I sat with my spice bag*, a truly glorious dish, the game on my phone quickly turned into a track meet with Lok up 36-28 after the first quarter and 68-45 at the break, with Small looking just as smart as he had when last I saw him play in September, and me struggling to work out which of the skinny white guys with brown hair was Pat. Once he gave up a foul, I copped. The game had no commentary and my German isn’t good enough for that to have mattered even if it did but the PA was nice and clear on the broadcast although Lee-ons was a funny way for him to say Lyons.
*Eagle eyed readers will not that photo is from Thursday. Yes, I had the same meal in the same place two days in a row.
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I got home just before the second half started. The game never got competitive after the break and the more than 600 km journey Lyons and his Lok Bernau team had made to Ehingen was worth it. They had swept the series 2-0 and were onto the quarter finals in their quest to make it to Germany’s second tier.
Another 500km southeast of Ehingen, was where one of Ireland’s other pros was in action this year. Sean Flood has certainly made the most of his time as a pro in terms of seeing the world but unfortunately he finished up with the club shortly before their playoff campaign was due to begin this Sunday. He’ll have little trouble finding a home next year, which is good because I’ve got a plan to try and catch all of Ireland’s Europe based players in person at least once next season.
Granted, that’s not going to be easy because a lot of these towns aren’t exactly easy to get to, especially when you can’t drive. Then there’s the small matter of the difference in prices. At least when I get to Austria or Germany, or Spain as John Carroll was in before missing this season through injury, I know the beer will be cheap. Taiwo Badmus? Oh dude, at least you’re making me go somewhere epic to watch basketball while I pay a small fortune for a beer.
Badmus is in the playoffs in Iceland’s top flight and has enjoyed two very successful seasons in the land of ice and fire. The Blanchardstown man has been a force to watch whenever the highlights hit my feed and he promises to be rather exciting to watch in national team action this summer.
Amusingly, I’m still trying to find a way to watch him in club action with Tindastóll. This is the challenge when trying to chase down leagues across Europe, even in the ultra connected world we live in today. Sometimes it’s just really difficult. I’ve asked Badmus so hopefully he lets me know.
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It’s not a huge number but it’s one that will grow. Carroll will surely find a home this autumn, if he hasn’t already, and the pipeline from stateside is obvious with Sam Alajiki (Rice), CJ Fulton (Lafayette), Aidan Harris Igiehon (Abilene Christian), and ND Okafor (Cal) all likely to make a jump to somewhere in Europe before coming all the way home.
On the women’s side, there’s certainly potential there as well. Orla O’Reilly is already playing pro in Australia or, as I call it, a timezone that is really difficult for me, while Bronagh Power-Cassidy has impressed early in her college career with Holy Cross and might well get a shot on the continent after she graduates.
There is a need for more like them in order to help the sport truly grow, to show the potential out there for players coming through beyond the college experience. Ireland’s Super League, realistically, isn’t going fuller pro anytime sooner than my hair is turning brown again so the full pro experience and the conditioning that comes with that is necessary for the best ballers from here.
It’s not an easy choice to make. Patrick Lyons left his whole life back here to try his hand in Germany. He wants to test himself, like all competitors do, to see how far he can bring his game even though he’ll get paid less than if he had a regular job off the court. It’s not all about mammon, the beast needs to be fed. Sometimes, you’ve just got to know how far you can go.
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