ANDERSONSTOWN Tigers Basketball Club has qualified for the U14 and U16 boys and girls All-Ireland Club Championships (AICC) in Gormanstown, Meath, with the girls playing this weekend (March 26-27) and the boys team playing the following weekend (April 2-3).
This is the first time the championships have been held since 2019 and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The team are one of only two teams from the North who have qualified to take part and will also be playing against teams from across Ireland, with regions sending two teams to compete.
The sport, as with many other sports was greatly affected due to the pandemic, but the team were left struggling for a place to play when their usual court at La Salle closed.
Due to the closure of facilities at La Salle, the team had to find a variety of venues to play in to keep up their training and are very much looking forward to representing Belfast and their local community this weekend.
At the competition, teams will be divided into pools, with the winner of one playing the runners up in the next, and with 12 teams competing, they will then be ranked on how they do from first place to 12th.
“We’ve always been a West Belfast club, and played out of La Salle, but when the pandemic hit, all the schools closed so we lost our main court to play and practice on,” said Sean Donnelly, boys team coach.
“It meant there wasn’t any basketball for about a year. The boys qualified for the All-Ireland Championships and we had raised up all the money to go, but it was called off due to the pandemic, so it was disheartening those boys lost their chance to play, but it is brilliant to be seeing this time the boys and the girls qualify and get to represent Belfast.”
The team are currently finishing up fundraising for the event, as they wish to be able to cater for all the children on the teams so no-one is left behind.
Donnelly explained how the team has also had some help from local businesses and organisations to achieve their funding goals, with a Just Giving page set up for each team.
“Ortus, Pure Class Fitness and Dairy Farm have really helped us out and sponsored warm-up tops for the boys and girls as well as other things we’ve needed for the team through the running of raffles and that’s been great, the parents involved too have also raised a great deal.,” he added.
“We aim to cover pretty much everything from accommodation, food to transport so that every member of the team can come and play.”
Just Giving links for both teams can be found below: