Trinity Meteor’s Edel Thornton has played in front of thousands over the past four years in the US but she cannot wait to show off her and her team’s wares in front of her nearest and dearest this Sunday at the National Basketball Arena.
The Cork native was the MVP in her side’s Hula Hoops Division One Cup semi-final win a fortnight ago against UU, setting up the final date with the Portlaoise Panthers at 2pm in Tallaght.
She returned to Ireland this season after a successful spell with Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, reaching the NCAA Division 1 playoffs three times.
In so doing, she became the first Irish woman to reach the sweet 16, upsetting big guns like Marquette and University of Miami.
The latter were beaten on their home court in front of a monster crowd but, since taking up a scholarship and a masters in behavioural science at Trinity, she has been experiencing huge crowds at Meteors.
They hosted a league record crowd of 358 for their November tie against Swords Thunder, a special moment for the club and Thornton to be part of.
“To me, I loved that, especially as it was all the kids from the club,” she told Dublin Gazette.
“It says a lot more than thousands of people coming that have no connection to you.
“I’d rather have a crowd of 10 who all knew us and really wanted us to win than 10,000 who don’t necessarily care. The fact we did break records and they were all somebody that someone playing on the team knew was incredible.”
That connection has gone further for Thornton as she has embedded herself in the club, helping with coaching the Under-14 side.
“It made me really buy-in to them and the club and I think they enjoy my personality! I get to chat to them and their parents when they come to the games.”
Success on the court helps. In addition to the cup run, Meteors are currently second in their conference with two games in hand on leaders UU with the potential for promotion to the Super League still up for grabs.
Personally, she is hoping to add a fifth national title to her haul having won titles at Under-18 and 20 level with Brunell before moving to the states.
She does feel the standard has risen markedly in that time and Portlaoise’s rise is indicative of that.
“It’s not where I left it; the country as a whole is more talented, there’s more kids in the sport and it has come on leaps and bounds.
“Portlaoise had a big boost for the semi-final with Clare Melia returning home [from the US]. That has given them a boost emotionally and basketball-wise.
“We have to do a lot of work under the boards and will have to play really well if we are to win.
“We can’t take it easy at any time; they are great shooters all around the court so we have to go big on defence and then let our offence handle itself.”