East Coast USA Girls Basketball Select Team – Tour of Ireland

Chaka Travel was pleased to host the East Coast Basketball Select team, a group of high school girls from Maryland, USA. When planning this trip, East Coast Basketball was looking for a quality international experience for girls basketball players at an affordable price. Ireland was a top choice due to the absence of language barriers, the country’s continued high-level play of basketball and the ease of travel from the USA.

The team is coached by the Director of East Coast Basketball, Amy Brooks, alongside Brad Rees, the Head Girls’ Basketball Coach from the prestigious McDonogh School in Baltimore, MD.  This year’s team consisted of ten young players, coming from six different Baltimore area high schools.   The August excursion helped the girls develop their skills for the upcoming high school season, while visiting the great cities and landmarks that Ireland and Northern Ireland have to offer.

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland

DAY 1

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland
At the airport getting ready for takeoff

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After an easy overnight flight, our East Coast Basketball Select team arrived to Dublin bright and early on Saturday morning.  There the team boarded their luxury McComb’s Coach Bus to begin their journey to the first stop of the trip, the city of Galway.  After a quick stop at the Connacht hotel to drop off the luggage, the girls were eager to explore the city.  The team enjoyed a walk through the Latin Quarters of Galway on their way to the city center, where they wasted no time making their first shopping purchases of the trip.  The town was buzzing for the final weekend of the Galway Races, which made for a lively atmosphere full of music and well-dressed party-goers which greatly amused the team. 

The girls exploring the Latin Quarters in Galway
The girls exploring the Latin Quarters in Galway

The group then returned to the hotel for a delicious buffet-style lunch at the Connacht Hotel, followed by a bus ride to the first practice session of the week.  The team had a fun, lively two-hour practice session at the Colaiste Iognaid school in Galway City, where they trained hard to prepare for Sunday’s game.  Afterwards, the group returned to the hotel for their buffet-style dinner, and a night of relaxation around the hotel.  By the end of dinner, the fatigue of travel and exploring finally caught up to the girls, and it was an early bedtime for everyone in the group.

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland
First practice together

 

DAY 2

Well-rested after a full night of sleep, the girls woke up energized and excited for day two.  The day started with an excellent all-you-can-eat breakfast at the hotel, followed by a trip to the gym for a morning shoot-around to prepare for the afternoon’s game.  After the finishing touches of the game plan had been implemented, the team traveled back to the hotel to freshen up for the rest of the afternoon.  Next, we headed down the road to the renowned Ashford Castle for lunch and a tour of the estate.  The girls were blown away by the five-star dining room where we had our lunch overlooking the Corrib Lake.  The group then enjoyed a private tour of the Castle from our entertaining guide Robert, which was extremely informative and had the girls mesmerized at all the incredible history that the estate has to offer.  The team had many laughs taking pictures in front of the remarkable architecture and incredible views that the landscape provided.

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland
Ashford Castle

The team then hopped on the bus to head to their first game of the trip.  Matched against a tough Limerick Celtic squad, the girls were eager to hit the court and compete in their first match of the week.  The girls adjusted quickly to the European three point line, and shot their way to a 40-16 lead at the half.

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland
Half-time huddle

The tough Limerick team fought back in the second half, but the East Coast Select squad proved too strong and held on to win by the score of 72-33.  It was an excellent first game for the girls to shake off any cobwebs left from their day of travel to the Emerald Isle, and they hoped to keep this momentum going in their big match Tuesday night in Cork.  After the hard-fought win, the team headed back to the hotel for a pizza party in their reserved room where many laughs were shared.  Day two was a huge success!

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland

DAY 3

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland
Admiring the view from the Cliffs of Moher

The girls woke up on Monday morning excited and ready to explore.  After another delicious buffet-style breakfast at the Connacht hotel, the team loaded up the bus and hit the road for their next adventure at the Cliffs of Moher.  Aside from the few rain showers during the bus trip there, Mother Nature did not disappoint and the team enjoyed a bright sunny day to experience the beauty that the Cliffs have to offer.  The girls were amazed by the scene, and couldn’t believe how high up they were.  Some weren’t as brave as others and wouldn’t dare get near the edge, however the brave ones prevailed and managed to get the full group close enough for some pretty spectacular pictures of the amazing views.  After a few hours of exploring and picture taking at the Cliffs, the team returned to the bus to begin their journey to the great city of Cork for the next couple of days.

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland
Jumping at the Cliffs of Moher

Exhausted from their adventures at the Cliffs, the girls used the bus ride to Cork to catch up on some valuable sleep.  However, once they arrived, they were back and full with energy to explore another city.  The group checked in to the Montenotte Hotel overlooking Cork City, and were blown away by the spectacular views that the hotel had to offer.  The team indulged in a chicken curry dinner provided by the hotel, and was immediately off ready to explore.  The girls were let in to Neptune Stadium to have a look at one of the most historic gyms in Ireland, and enjoyed learning about some of the history of the club, and Irish basketball.  The team then walked down the road to Quinlan’s Bar in Blackpool to watch some live music while enjoying a late night snack.  After taking over the dance floor for several songs at Quinlan’s, the group walked in to town to get a better sense of what Cork City was all about.  The team enjoyed a nice walk through the city on the way back up to the hotel, where they were ready to get some sleep to rest up for Tuesday’s game.

USA Basketball Tour of Ireland
Quinlan’s Bar in Blackpool

DAY 4

Basketball Tour Ireland Blarney Castle
Blarney Castle

The team woke up on Tuesday excited for their second game day of the trip.  They began the day with an incredible breakfast buffet at the Montenotte Hotel, then boarded the bus to visit the Blarney Castle and kiss the ever-famous Blarney Stone.  The group was again blessed with good weather, and aside from a brief light rain upon arrival, was able to explore the castle and the grounds in sunshine.  Our excellent guide Paul taught the girls everything there is to know about the castle, and they really enjoyed learning about its history.  Though a few were nervous about kissing the stone, everyone managed to brave the heights and partake in the ritual.  Paul then showed the team the beautiful gardens and pathways surrounding the Castle, where the girls enjoyed taking some brilliant pictures while wandering the area.  After our great tour from Paul, the group jumped back on the bus to head to the hotel for lunch.

Basketball Tour Ireland Blarney Castle
Exploring Blarney Castle

            At the Montenotte Hotel,  the group was provided with a delicious spread of soup and sandwiches for lunch, followed by some brief down time.  The team then made their way into town to explore for their afternoon.  The girls enjoyed walking along the River Lee and visiting the English Market in the heart of the City.  They then spent the afternoon wandering the town shopping for themselves and for family members back home.  Once the girls had bought more than they could carry from all the shops in Cork City, the group headed back to the hotel to relax and prepare for the night’s game.

            After some down time, the team loaded up the bus to head up the hill to the Parochial Hall for the big match against the girls from Glanmire.  The game got off to an intense pace with both teams firing on all cylinders, and no team claiming any type of major advantage.  The game remained back and forth through halftime, and Glanmire claimed a one point lead at the break.  However, the East Coast Select squad came out with unmatched intensity in the third quarter and took a slight advantage of 42-37 entering the final quarter.  Glanmire made several attempts to close the gap in the fourth quarter, but the effort fell just short, and the East Coast Select Squad secured their second victory of the trip by a score of 53-46.

Basketball Tour Ireland Blarney Castle
Both teams taking a selfie

After the game, the team gave each of the Glanmire girls a USA t-shirt and the teams seemed to instantly become best friends, with the girls exchanging contact information and social media accounts to keep in touch when the team returns home.  The group then made the short journey back to the hotel, for a fantastic dinner of fish and chips.  The fun-filled day was capped off by a night of rest and relaxation as the girls went to bed to prepare for their journey to Dublin in the morning.

Basketball Tour Ireland Glanmire
Quick stop for milkshakes before heading to bed

DAY 5

After a great two days in Cork, the girls awoke on Wednesday morning excited for their trip to Dublin to see what the capital city has in store.  They enjoyed another fantastic breakfast buffet at the Montenotte Hotel in Cork, before loading up the bus and making the trip to Dublin.  The group arrived at the Croke Park Hotel just in time for an incredible lunch buffet which featured spicy chicken wraps, salmon fillets, and a banana pudding pie that seemed to be just what the girls needed after the bus trip.  When lunch was finished and everyone had settled in to the hotel, the team took the bus to the National Indoor Arena to catch some action at the FIBA U-18 European Tournament.  It was a great experience for the girls to see such a high level of international talent on display, and they enjoyed watching a thrilling match between Bulgaria and Finland in the impressive new arena.  The group then headed over to the National Basketball Arena to catch the Ireland team in action during their final game of pool play.  Ireland continued their unbeaten streak by beating Ukraine in a great match that was played in front of an energetic home crowd.  The girls had a great time supporting the Irish team and jumped right in cheering with the hometown fans during the game.  After the game, the team headed to the Brian Boru Pub in Dublin for a nice, relaxing dinner at a true Irish Pub.  The food was great and the girls definitely enjoyed a filling meal after such a busy day.  Another great day exploring Ireland!

Basketball Tour Ireland National Indoor Arena
National Indoor Arena

DAY 6

After a great night’s rest, the team was energetic and excited to explore the rest of Dublin and get some highly anticipated shopping in.  First, the girls enjoyed a full breakfast buffet at the Croke Park Hotel, then loaded the bus to start the day with a basketball training session and coaching clinic for the local children.  The team arrived at Kubs Arena just after breakfast for an intense 45-minute practice session.  Once the practice was complete, the team held a clinic for some younger members of the Kubs Basketball Club along with several children from the area.  The clinic was a huge success and both the children and the team had an outstanding time.  The team loved interacting with the Irish children and enjoyed entertaining questions the kids had about basketball and American culture alike.  Once the clinic was over, the group headed back to the hotel for another great buffet style lunch at the Croke Park Hotel.

Kubs Basketball Club East Coast USA Tour of Ireland
Helping the children at Kubs

            After lunch, the team took the bus to Trinity College to explore the historic campus and the surrounding area.  The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering Grafton Street, where the girls began their Dublin shopping spree and enjoyed watching some of the live performances from the local Irish street talent.  Once they had thoroughly explored Grafton street, the team headed back to the hotel for a fantastic salmon dinner at the Croke Park Hotel.  After dinner, the group walked to the Henry and Mary Street shopping area to embark on a night full of shopping in Dublin.  The girls enjoyed walking the busy streets and shopping at all the local shops that this popular area has to offer.  After dark, the group returned back to the hotel to get some rest for the big game on the following day!

Trinity College Dublin Basketball Tour Ireland
The girls at Trinity College Dublin

DAY 7

The team awoke on Friday excited for their big game against the Irish under-16 National Team.  The day began with another fantastic breakfast buffet at the Croke Park Hotel, followed by a short trip to the Colaiste Bride Secondary School for a 12:00 tip off against the underage Irish squad.  Both teams came out strong in the first half, and the game remained even at the break, with a score of 28-28.  The tough Irish girls put up a valiant fight in the second half, but the solid play from the East Coast Basketball Select squad proved to be too much in the end, and the American girls came out on top by a score of 63-48.  The teams traded gifts after the game and had a great time getting to know one another during the post game picture session.

Colaiste Ireland Basketball Tour
Selfie with the Irish players

            After many selfies and social media exchanges between the two teams, the girls loaded up the bus and made their way to their fourth and final destination, the city of Belfast. The team made it to the Park Inn Hotel just before dinner, and enjoyed a great meal at the hotel restaurant upon arrival.  Once the group had all settled in to the hotel, the girls were ready to explore Belfast.  Several of the girls were tired from the game, and chose to walk to the Victoria Square Cinema to see a movie.  However, the rest of the team, still full of energy, wandered the city for a little late night shopping.  After everyone had returned back to the hotel, the team headed to bed, exhausted from their big win and another great day of exploring!

Belfast Ireland Basketball Tour
Belfast city centre

DAY 8

Titanic Museum Belfast Basketball Tour Ireland
Visiting the Titanic Museum in Belfast

The girls woke up on Saturday morning with mixed emotions about their final day of the trip.  They were excited for their final game and the last full day exploring the island, but the bittersweet feeling of the trip almost ending was starting to creep in to their minds.  The team began the day with a great breakfast buffet at the Park Inn Hotel, and was then picked up by the bus to begin the day’s adventure.  The team spent the morning on an open-top bus tour of Belfast, learning about the history of the area and the troubles the city has gone through in the past.  It was a very informative tour and the girls enjoyed seeing all the famous landmarks that the city has to offer.  After the bus tour, the team made their way to the Titanic Exhibition Center for a tour through the historic area.  The girls were captivated by the images and stories of survivors that the museum has to offer.  The girls enjoyed the tour, which was followed by a team lunch inside the Titanic Exhibition Center.  Afterwards, the girls hopped on the bus to head to their final game of the trip against the BNI club at Ulster University in Jordanstown.

Open Top Tour Belfast Basketball Tour Ireland
Tourists in Belfast!

            Excited for their final game as a group, the East Coast Select Squad came out ready to play against the girls from Northern Ireland.  It was a back and forth game, with each team showing impressive displays of talent on both ends of the floor.  However, in the end, the East Coast Select squad was too strong and ended up winning their final match by a ten-point margin.  After the game, the girls headed back to the hotel to freshen up for a dinner out on the town.  The group enjoyed a nice walk through Belfast to the incredible Scalini Belfast restaurant, where a delicious three course meal awaited.  The final meal of the trip was fantastic and it was a great environment for everyone to spend their last night together.  After dinner, the girls headed back to the hotel to get some rest for their early departure back to the states.  The trip was a huge success and the girl’s enjoyed a once in a lifetime experience travelling and competing around the Emerald Isle!

Belfast Basketball Tour Ireland
Friends for life

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