Barca superstars head to Belfast for Star clash
First they landed one of the best coaches in Europe and now Belfast Star are set to take on Barcelona in Belfast ahead of the All Ireland season.
Star, who will be led by former assistant Barcelona coach Josep Maria Berrocal will take on the mighty Barca – semi-finalists this year in the basketball equivalent of the Champions League – in the Tayto International basketball tournament which will be held from September 27-29 at the La Salle sports complex in Belfast.
The tournament will also feature fellow top Irish sides Neptune and Marian as well as an American select team made up of players seeking professional contracts in Europe.
Tournament director David Cullen is naturally delighted with the coup of bringing the Barcelona side here and believes the event will provide some great entertainment.
"We are so excited, in partnership with Belfast Star Basketball Club, to bring such a high caliber of hoops to Belfast that has not been seen in over a decade," said Cullen.
Star's chairman Bill McCotter naturally feels that the tournament just adds to the excitement around the club as they return to the elite level of Irish basketball with an outstanding coach as well as new Spanish and American players for the new season which kicks off next month.
"To have Barcelona coming here to play Star is scary! It's amazing that they are coming and of course it's down to our coach Josep because without him they wouldn't have considered it," said McCotter.
"Credit to David Cullen for bringing us on board... it's going to be a great tournament and it gives the local fans to see one of the best club sides in Europe if not the world.
"In Spain these guys are real superstars on big money so it's going to be a real challenge for our players.
"It's been an amazing time for the club, getting Barcelona to come after having Josep commit to coaching the club even though he has had other offers – even after he decided to be our head coach.
"Having him here is a bit like Jose Mourinho coming to manage the Glens."
Berracol's assistant coach, Adrian Fulton is hoping there will be a spin-off for the Belfast club as they look to continue developing their junior programme which has proved so successful in recent years.
Fulton said: "We are looking to move to the next level, to keep developing our kids and broaden their horizons and to have link with Barcelona would just be incredible.
"The senior lads have already had a shock with the amount of training they have been doing with Josep!"
Tayto tournament: Group 1: Belfast Star; Neptune; Barca
Group 2: SMAA, USA; UCD Marian; Dublin Thunder
Friday 7pm: Star v Barca
Saturday 9.30am: SMAA v Thunder
Saturday 11am: Neptune v Star
Saturday 12.30pm: UCD v Thunder
Saturday 2pm: Barca v Neptune
Saturday 3.30pm: SMAA v UCD