In this installment of the PPI – Northern Ireland blog, PPI Fellow Meghan Houlihan recounts her path to an All-Ireland Championship with her team, the Ulster Rockets.
As an American working for PeacePlayers in Northern Ireland, I inevitably spend many hours on the basketball court; however, over the last several months, those hours have significantly increased as I’ve been training with the Ulster Rockets, an elite senior women’s basketball team that represents Northern Ireland in the All-Ireland National League.
Led by coaches Joe Toner and Sean Wynne (a PPI-NI Board Member) and team captains Nicola Smye and Niamh Toner, the team began training in early September with one goal: to win the All-Ireland Championship. In November, we successfully advanced through the first round of the All-Ireland Cup in Donegal and then went on to beat St. Mary’s, a team from Kerry, in the quarter-finals in December. Two weeks ago, we traveled to Cork and defeated the Meteors, a team from Dublin, in a tough semi-final match-up.
Finally, this past Saturday, we faced the University of Limerick in the finals at the National Basketball Arena in Dublin. At the end of four quarters, and in front of a spirited crowd of supporters from Belfast (including PPI Fellow Shannon Brown and the U.S. Consul General in Belfast, Kamala Lakhdhir), we convincingly defeated Limerick 72-46 and were crowned the All-Ireland Champions! The win marked the first time a team from the North won the All-Ireland Cup and I am truly honored to be a part of this historic team. Many thanks to all of my teammates, coaches, and supporters for a great season!