Departure for Ireland is scheduled for Friday, August 4th from Reagan International Airport. Our group of ten players, two coaches, two parents and one manager will spend eight days traveling through four cities, playing basketball and visiting sights of the Emerald Isle. Follow our journey here with updates and photos throughout the trip.
Day nine (travel day)
We had an early wake up call this morning and met in the lobby at 4:45am to board our bus from Belfast back to the Dublin Airport to fly home. With a 9:55am flight, we made it in plenty of time and the girls had a few extra minutes to grab breakfast in the airport before boarding our long flight home. Our first flight from Dublin to Charlotte was approximately 8 hours, then we had an hour layover in Charlotte before boarding our 1.5 hour flight back to Washington D.C. The girls were exhausted from their late night last night and most napped on the bus and planes to catch up on some much needed sleep. While they were all excited to see their families back home, it was a bittersweet goodbye for the girls, who have all grown so close over the past nine days. We're all looking forward to crossing paths again in the future, whether it be in high school basketball games, AAU games and tournaments, or socially. Thanks to all for a great trip!!
We woke up this morning to our hotel breakfast buffet in Belfast, then departed for an open-top bus tour of the city. Although it was a little windy and chilly on the open top of the bus, it was an awesome experience and we learned lots of interesting facts, both historical and present-day, about the city of Belfast. The tour was an hour and a half long and took us all throughout the city and its outskirts, then we looped back around to get off the bus at the Titanic Experience Exhibition. Historically, shipbuilding has always been one of the greatest economic sectors in Belfast and the Titanic itself was built in Belfast from 1909 to 1911. The Titanic Experience was a one hour self-guided walking tour of the museum, in which we were able to learn about the history of the ship itself, the company that built it, and more insights into the story surrounding it, including its sinking and the aftermath of it. After the tour, we ate lunch at the restaurant in the museum before heading to our final game of the trip. Our game was at Ulster University Jordanstown and was a very competitive game. The girls ended up winning, making them completely undefeated on the whole tour. After the game, we returned to the hotel to freshen up before heading to a local Italian restaurant for dinner. The girls loved the familiar foods on the menu at dinner and even managed to fit in their own mini photoshoot outside the restaurant while waiting for the food. Upon returning to the hotel after dinner, many of the girls opted to stay up extra late tonight (some even choosing to pull an all-nighter), since it is the last night of our trip and we have to leave at 5am for the airport in the morning (at least they'll be able to sleep on the plane!).
This morning, we had our third game of the trip against the Ireland U16 National Team. We played at Coláiste Bríde, a secondary school in South Dublin, in which the professional club the Dublin Lions plays, and we even had some extra fans, as two of the young girls that attended our clinic yesterday decided to come to the game to support us. The game was physical and competitive and the girls pulled out a win 63-47. They had a great time mingling with the other team after the game and getting to know the girls and their experiences on the national team. After the game, we stopped at a Subway for lunch before getting on the road for our 2-hour drive to Belfast, in Northern Ireland. Upon arrival, we had dinner at the hotel, then planned out the rest of our evening. 4 of the girls chose to see a movie at the local cinema, while the other 6 chose to head into downtown to Victory Square Mall (more shopping!) to explore. With the tiring game this morning and the long travel to Belfast, the girls were all tired when we returned to the hotel tonight. We are looking forward to a full, busy day in Belfast tomorrow!
After breakfast at the hotel this morning, we went to the Kubs Gym, home of a professional club in Dublin, to host a clinic for youth kids in the area. The girls did an amazing job coaching the younger kids and worked on passing, shooting, defense, and offensive skills with them. The kids had a blast and the girls did too! After the clinic, we returned to the hotel for lunch before taking the bus into town to explore Trinity College and do some shopping on the famous Grafton Street. With all of the stores, tourists, and street performers in the area, the girls were entertained for hours shopping and exploring. Later, we headed back to the hotel for dinner and some rest before heading back out for more shopping on O'Connell Street. Since Thursday's are known as "Late-Shopping" day here in Dublin, most shops were open until 9pm, which allowed us to stay later and experience the beautiful streets of Dublin at night. When we got back to the hotel, the girls were all exhausted after so much shopping today and went to bed to prepare for our game tomorrow morning!
This morning, we had breakfast at the hotel again and boarded the bus for our trip to our next city: Dublin. It was about a 3 hour bus trip and the girls slept the whole way. When we got to our next hotel, we were served a delicious lunch buffet in the dining room, then checked into our rooms. We then spent the day at the FIBA U18 European Championship games at the National Indoor Arena and the National Basketball Arena here in Dublin. We attended the Finland vs. Bulgaria game at one stadium then headed over to the other for the home-country game: Ireland vs. Ukraine, which was a very competitive and lively game. Abby and Nicki even borrowed an Irish flag from another fan and ran up and down the sideline during a timeout to encourage the crowd to do the wave! After the games, we headed to Brian Boru, a local Irish pub, for dinner. With such a heavy travel day today, the girls were exhausted and falling asleep at the table by the end of dinner, so after our walk back to the hotel, they all went right to bed!
We awoke in Cork today for breakfast at the hotel and a 10am bus ride to Blarney Castle. There, we were met by our tour guide, Paul, who escorted us through the castle, up to the famous Blarney Stone, and around the beautiful gardens and landscape on the property. According to legend, kissing the Blarney Stone, which is a part of the lower wall on the top roof of the castle, grants you the gift of eloquence, and all of the girls braved the heights and kissed the stone. After kissing the stone and exploring the rest of the castle while learning interesting history and facts from Paul, we returned to the hotel for lunch. We then headed into downtown Cork to do some shopping and exploring before our 6:30pm game tonight. In town, the girls did lots of shopping and we walked through the English Market, a large market hall with stands selling every fresh food imaginable like meat, fish, baked goods, sandwiches, fresh veggies, etc., which was very cool for the girls to experience (although they weren't too fond of the fish and raw meat smells by those stands). Our game tonight was at Parochial Hall in Cork and the girls played hard and won, in a very competitive game, 53-42. After the game, they had a blast mingling with the Irish girls on the opposing team and chatting about the different cultures and lives that they live here. We then returned to the hotel for Fish and Chips for dinner, which was a new dish for most of the girls to try (and most of them liked it!) then walked to a local restaurant for celebratory milkshakes. After the long busy day, the girls were exhausted and ready to head to bed tonight, eager for our first day in Dublin tomorrow.
After another great breakfast buffet this morning, we boarded the bus to drive to the Cliffs of Moher in County Clare, Ireland. The Cliffs were a breathtaking sight to see and the girls loved exploring the vast landscape and taking in all the beautiful views (while staying a safe distance away from the edge, of course!). We ate lunch at the Cliffs then took the bus to our next city: Cork. Upon arrival, we checked into our hotel and freshened up before meeting in the hotel restaurant for dinner. We ate Chicken Curry and then headed to Neptune Stadium, home of one of Ireland's most renowned professional basketball clubs. We explored the stadium and learned some fun facts about the club from our tour guide, Tanner, who played for Neptune last year. After Neptune Stadium, we walked to Quinlans Bar for food and live music, then walked through downtown Cork to explore the city.
We woke up today to an excellent breakfast buffet at the hotel, followed by a light shootaround to add some finishing touches before our game this afternoon. After practice, we hopped on the bus to go to Ashford Castle. There, we had lunch and a private tour around the beautiful castle and its grounds. The girls had a blast and loved hearing the history (and ghost stories) that our tour guide Robert told about the past families that owned it. After our tour, we rode the bus directly to our first game against our Galway opponents, where the girls played great! They won with a final score of 72-33. We then returned to the hotel for pizza and some downtime before lights out to get some rest before another busy day tomorrow!
We made it! We landed in Dublin at 6:15am and boarded our 2 hour bus ride to Galway, where we arrived at our hotel. The flights and bus ride gave us all time to get some much needed sleep before our busy day ahead of us. Check-in at the hotel was at 3:30pm, which gave us extra free time to walk and shop around downtown Galway for a couple of hours until our 12:45 buffet lunch at the hotel. After lunch, we had a great first practice then returned to the hotel for check-in and some downtime, before dinner. It was a great first day and everyone is excited to catch up on sleep tonight to prepare for our first game tomorrow, as well as our visit to Ashford Castle.