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Relying on kindness of strangers, friends

Team Ireland has lots of enthusiastic family support.

In the category of, for now at least, “not many people know that”: Ireland has an international fastpitch softball team. Not only that, the team is ranked in the top 20 in Europe and the top 25 in the world. And it has extended its recruitment of USA-based Irish heritage players as it aspires to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The program started in Ireland in 2014, and since then, the team has competed in the 2015 European Championships and the 2016 World Championships. And most recently, the senior team came a very respectable 15th out of 24 in the 2017 European Championships in Milan, Italy -- and also garnered a lot of respect and love, by all accounts, with their fun and sporting attitude.

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In addition, their U-19 team will debut at the Junior World Championships to be held in Clearwater, Fla., starting on this coming Monday, July 24. “This young team is ready to show the rest of the world what Ireland can do,” said Head Coach Melanie Lavery. The current squad traveling this summer to play in Italy and Florida is composed of Irish-based players and a number of heritage players from the USA, France and South Africa.

Of the USA-based players, Ireland have welcomed back Lauren Packer from Manchester, Conn., who was a standout at the 2016 World Championships, and she was joined by NCAA Division 1 players: Tess Griswold - New Jersey/Furman University, Christine Campbell - San Diego/Lehigh University, Ciara Sullivan - New Jersey/Georgetown University, and Claire Blount - Florida/University of Alabama, Birmingham. They will be joined by the next generation of high school Irish-American players who have committed to representing Ireland in the coming years.

A training session.

“We are excited that players of this caliber wish to represent Ireland in international competition” said Colum Lavery, President of Softball Ireland and National Team Program Manager. “I have spoken with the players and their parents over the last number of months,” he added, “and to hear the parents speak with such pride at their daughters’ opportunity to represent Ireland after living away from home for so long humbles me.”

The program is completely self-funded and reliant on the good will of donations. “We receive no government funding” said Lavery, “The cost of running the program for 2017 is approximately €65,000 [US$73,000] and the vast majority of this is financed by the players, their parents and the coaches together with fundraising.

“We are always seeking sponsors for the team and feel the team offers a potential sponsor the chance to get in on the ground level of what will be a very talented Olympic Games bound program,” Lavery added. Softball Ireland have created a GO FUNDME page for donations to assist players in funding their participation in the tournaments – the page can be found here:

At the Europeans in Milan.

USA Based Irish Players: 2017 European Championships: Christine Campbell (San Diego), Tess Griswold (Holmdel, NJ), Alexandra Monteleone & Hannah Monteleone (Cold Spring, NY), Ciara Sullivan (Middletown, NJ); 2017 Junior World Championships: Claire Blount (Pembroke Pines, FL) Eimear Cunningham (San Carlos, CA), Nicole Franklin (River Vale, NJ), Tess Griswold (Holmdel, NJ), Cassandra McGrath (Bronxville, NY), Makenzie McGrath (Dumont, NJ), Hannah Monteleone (Cold Spring, NY), Lauran Packer (Manchester, CT), Ciara Sullivan (Middletown, NJ)

Follow the Irish team’s progress on either Facebook, Instagram or Twitter @softballireland.