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Northern Ireland's basketball aces could land Commonwealth Games spot thanks to coronavirus pandemic

 

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We've done it: Belfast Star celebrate title success back in March

We've done it: Belfast Star celebrate title success back in March

We've done it: Belfast Star celebrate title success back in March

Northern Ireland could end up being represented at the Commonwealth Games in basketball for the first time - inadvertently due in some part to COVID-19.

The Games, due to be staged in Birmingham in 2022, host basketball in a three-a-side format, or three-on-three as it is termed, and Belfast Star chairman Bill McCotter believes they could provide a group of players to take on the best in the Commonwealth.

Star landed the All Ireland title in dramatic fashion in March just before the pandemic lockdown with Conor Quinn sinking a half-court basket on the buzzer. With a game to go the league was abandoned and Star, who could not be caught, were declared champions.

Over the past weeks Basketball Ireland have been seeking to plot a way forward for the start of the 2020/21 season, which will have to be behind closed doors. Due to social distancing issues, one possibility that has been discussed is next season's title being competed for on a three-on-three basis.

Whether that comes to fruition or not, it would seem there is every chance that Basketball Northern Ireland could run their own three-on-three league and Star chairman McCotter believes it could pave the way to a team at the Commonwealth Games.

"If we have a league I don't see why we shouldn't have a Northern Ireland team at the Commonwealth Games. If we had a squad that consisted of Keelan Cairns, CJ Fulton and the Quinn twins, Conor and Aidan, they would be a match for anybody in that format," said McCotter.

"I think it is something that should be looked at seriously because it would be great for the sport here to be represented at the Commonwealth Games.

"At the moment we just don't know how the All Ireland League will go forward and just when it will start but there is a genuine hope that it will be late November, early December."

While McCotter is waiting to see when Star will kick off their campaign, the Basketball Ireland board are pondering whether or not the structure of the league will have to change this season as well as the possibility that clubs may have to play without any American professionals.

McCotter added: "Like all other sports we expect that games will be behind closed doors and we know that Basketball Ireland are looking at the possibility of streaming every game so fans can get the chance to watch the games. There's already a company who have said they would be willing to do it and in terms of the profile of the league it would be a big boost.

"Things can change as the lockdown eases so things are fluid but I must say that I have been very impressed with how the governing body has dealt with the whole lockdown issue. The option of splitting the league into two conferences has also been looked at with ourselves and teams from Dublin in one conference and those in Kerry, Galway and Cork.

"It's a tough situation for every sport but I believe that as a sport we have done as much as possible to be prepared for when the league can return."

Meanwhile, due to the lockdown Star have yet to receive the All Ireland Superleague trophy and the winner's medals but whenever the time is right Basketball Ireland will travel north to make an official presentation.

Belfast Telegraph