In one respect, it’s exactly what Hibernia wanted but it’s still going to be an awful road through FIBA Europe Cup according to Emmet Ryan
The order makes a heap of sense if you are Basketball Ireland. The target from this campaign is to not go 0-6. A win, any win, is a big win for them that can be sold to the public back home. That Ireland belongs on the European stage and this tournament can be sold as such.
That doesn’t mean the route through their group of FIBA Europe Cup is going to be pleasant. Hibernia will play all three road games first before finishing with three straight weeks in front of their own fans in Dublin.
Starting in Denmark against Bakken Bears, the Irish combined club outfit then faces a trip a week later to Slovenia champions Tajfun Sentjur before the most daunting trip away to Nymburk a week later. The make-up of the Irish squad is unknown as it stands but that’s still a brutal way to start for a group of amateurs with maybe a couple of pro imports on the team. The reasoning makes a load of sense. Basketball Ireland wants to have its home games in one order, that’s an easier sell and keeps the mainstream media and not just BiE talking about them through the late autumn.
It also has to do with experience. The powers that be are clearly betting that all of these games will stand to a squad that needs time to gel. They’re hoping that by the home game against Bakken on 18 November that this side will be capable of pulling an upset. Hibernia are hoping Tajfun already has their destiny decided by the time they arrive on 25 November and, most of all, they are hoping that in one of those games they can pull an upset to keep some hope of a giant shocker against Nymburk on 2 December.
No-one, at least realistically, is banking on this Irish collection to progress. These are players who have club teams that will be deep into their regular seasons by the time the group phase ends. The National Cup, which is the primary target for most of the sides in the Premier League, will likely be under way, and there’s also the travel factor. When you don’t do this for a living, traveling from Dublin to Cork, vice versa, or worse for training and games isn’t going to be fun.
For Basketball Ireland, it’s not about how they do in Europe, it’s about how this looks domestically. It’s about having a team in European competition that matters. If they aren’t in discussions with TG4 already about carrying the games, I expect them to be shortly. They know the Champions League will own them on most of those nights but they also know that some people will tune in. They know that on Thursday mornings there will be reports in the national papers, on The 42.ie, on Balls.ie, and wherever else. They will be cutting YouTube clips furiously. All of it to sell the sport, to make sponsors see a reason to get on board. That’s what this is about.
Not that the players will be taking any of this as a foregone conclusion. While most have jobs and situations they won’t walk away from, there will be enough amateurs and imports in the squad thinking about getting a contract somewhere else. This is a chance to sell yourself, to show that playing in a largely amateur league doesn’t mean you can’t make it as a pro. When the squad gets announced, I’ll look more at that aspect. For now, it’s a tough road for the newest team in European hoops.