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Belfast Star forced to withdraw from All-Ireland Superleague after leading scorer Max Cooper ruled ineligible


Ineligible: Max Cooper was registered incorrectly

Ineligible: Max Cooper was registered incorrectly

Ineligible: Max Cooper was registered incorrectly

Belfast Star’s All-Ireland Superleague title defence came to a crashing halt last night after Basketball Ireland ruled that leading scorer Max Cooper was ineligible.

Following a meeting by the Men’s National Competitions Committee, Belfast Star chairman Bill McCotter confirmed that the club were withdrawing from this season’s campaign —just 24 hours before their final match of the regular season. Star were due to have a home tie in the play-off quarter-finals next Saturday as they sought to land back-to-back All-Ireland titles.

Cooper, who went to a school in Essex before his family moved to America when he was 13, had been registered by Star as a Category 2 player. Those are usually players coming from within Europe, while Category 1 players are normally those from the States. However, due to an obscure rule that states a player must have played at a school for two years that is registered as a basketball school, Cooper has been deemed ineligible.

Chairman of the MNCC Gerry Kelly confirmed that Cooper should have been registered as a Category 1 player as he was first registered with his American school as his Essex school was not registered with the local governing body.

Chairman Kelly said: “This is a sad day for the National League because we know the high principles of Belfast Star and their integrity as a club. We believe this to be an inadvertent error.”

Kelly admitted he was surprised that the ineligibility had only come to light at this stage.

“It is something that Basketball Ireland will have to ask ourselves,” he said. Though, Kelly did state that “the onus was on the club” when it came to the registering of players. That will leave many within the sport wondering how such a crucial aspect of the Superleague is not the responsibility of Basketball Ireland.

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Star chairman McCotter admitted that “everyone in the club is shattered by the news” and he like everyone else in the sport is now left wondering how such an archaic rule about school registration can have led to the All-Ireland champions having to withdraw from the Superleague.

McCotter said: “The rule’s an ass. But, whether we like it or not, it is the rule about a school being registered to the local authority. But to have played all season and to be in contention for the league title and then have it taken away because of a rule like that is just gut wrenching.

“It is my intention to remain a member of the Men’s National Competitions Committee and my goal is to make sure that this rule is gone — not just because of what has happened to us but for every other club.”

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