Kieran Donaghy weighs in on Basketball Ireland and Israel controversy

Kieran Donaghy weighs in on Basketball Ireland and Israel controversy

Former Kerry footballer Kieran Donaghy has weighed in on the ongoing dispute between the Irish women's basketball team, Basketball Ireland, and Israel's women's basketball team. Due to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, where thousands of people have lost their lives since October, many have protested against the qualifier taking place on neutral ground in Latvia this afternoon.

Several Irish players have opted not to travel for the game, which will be played on neutral territory after Ireland refused to host the return fixture, due to be played in November.

Tensions also arose when photos emerged of members of the Israel team posing with armed members of the IDF in the build-up to the rearranged game. Yesterday, Israeli basketball head coach Sharon Drucker also described the Ireland team as “anti-Semitic” in a post on the Israeli Basketball website.

In an interview published on the Israeli Basketball Federation website, Sa’ar said: "As mentioned in the national team, they don't officially talk about the Irish and their behaviour lately, but it's hard for the players to ignore. It's known that they are quite anti-Semitic, and it's no secret, and maybe that's why a strong game is expected. We have to show that we're better than them and win. We talk about it among ourselves. We know they don't like us, and we will leave everything on the field always, and in this game especially."

Basketball Ireland responded by saying, "Basketball Ireland is aware of comments made by a member of the Israeli team and published on official Israeli Federation channels ahead of this week’s FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2025 Qualifier. Basketball Ireland is extremely disappointed by these accusations, which are both inflammatory and wholly inaccurate.

"Basketball Ireland would refute these allegations towards our players in the strongest possible terms, and we have raised this matter with FIBA Europe."

Basketball Ireland CEO John Feehan also said earlier this week that the organization was under extreme pressure to fill the fixture this afternoon because they would either be fined heavily by the governing body, FIBA, or thrown out of international competitions for five years, and that a whole generation of players would be lost because of the boycott.

Armagh selector Kieran Donaghy wants Basketball Ireland to do the right thing (Photo By Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

"I'm pretty sure we'd be hit pretty hard because we did actually ask if there was an alternative to playing this game and all the rest of it, and from that perspective, there isn't," said Feehan this week.

"But the really big issue for us is that we'd be effectively getting rid of a generation of players. We'd be out of international competition for the next five years effectively. Not only would we be out of international competition for the next five years, but it would probably take us another five years to get back to where we are now, so in real terms, we'd lose a generation of players.

"We'd also lose role models for our kids as they go through the process of learning to play basketball; there'd be nowhere to go."

Tralee Warriors basketballer and Kerry legend Kieran Donaghy has become the latest Irish sporting voice to raise his concern about the fixture being played in Latvia.

The Kerry native believes that Basketball Ireland should "do the right thing and withdraw from the fixture." He also believes the money lost from the fixture would be raised again via GoFundMe by the Irish public, who also hold the same belief that the game should not go ahead.

"Basketball Ireland needs to have a rethink and be strong," said Donaghy. "It's never too late to do the right thing.

“It’s a shame the players and coaching staff have been put in this position. They have worked so hard to play at this level and represent their country, and they do it with immense pride.

"This decision should not sit solely on their shoulders. How the FIBA governing bodies are allowing a country committing genocide to compete is a scandal in itself, and worse is forcing Basketball Ireland and our girls to play by threatening huge financial sanctions, along with being banished into the wilderness of elite level basketball.

"The €80,000 and more that they will be fined can be raised on a GoFundMe page in a few days, as the country would get behind our girls."

If the game goes ahead, it will take place at 4:30 later today.