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900 million fans shows the popularity of volleyball

Volleyball is one of the most popular sports there is with over 900 million fans worldwide. That fanbase is growing all the time and the sport consistently ranks in the top five of the most watched global sports. At the end of the month Ireland will head to San Marino for the CEV SCA (European Volleyball Small Countries Association) Championship where they will face Scotland, Malta, Northern Ireland and hosts San Marino in the group stages. The Banner County have had huge success in the sport with the Senior and Junior All Ireland titles residing in the county courtesy of the Coláiste Muire and the Munster Thunder clubs. The strength of the sport in Clare can be highlighted by the fact that four Banner players will represent Ireland in the tournament. Amy O’Sullivan, Catriona Ní Riordan, TJ Sweeney and Maria Jones will all proudly don the green jersey in Serraville from May 30th to June 2nd. Three of the girls have represented Ireland on a regular basis since making their debut at U-16 level in 2019 and indeed all have tasted success with silver medals at U-19 level in 2022.

Maria Jones in action

Volleyball Ireland CEO Gary Stewart recently praised the consistent presence of Clare players on National teams.
“While these four players are very young they bring a wealth of top-class international experience to the setup. These players are already veterans of many European campaigns and know hot to compete and grind out match wins.”
Catriona O’Riordan has regularly been the libero (strictly a back-row player that can only be replaced by the same player it replaces). O’Riordan played her volleyball in England this year and was a member of the University of London team that won the UK Championship. Ballyea native TJ Sweeney is a setter (player who runs the teams offence) and is renowned for her flawless technique. Sweeney spent the year playing with ASD Delfino in Italy before returning to local club Munster Thunder. Amy O’Sullivan from Ennis plays with UCG and is well known for terrorising teams with quick, hard, accurate hits in her role as an outside hitter. Corofin/Ruan native Maria Jones is a powerful jump server who commands the backcourt in all her matches. She joined Santry Volleyball club in Dublin this year after heading off to Trinity College for her studies. Jones captained TUD to the T2 cup defeating Galway in the final.
All four girls are immensely proud to represent their families, their clubs, their counties and of course their Country. Speaking exclusively to the Clare Champion Maria Jones says that it’s an absolute privilege to play for Ireland.
“All us Clare girls in the senior squad have had the benefit of top class intense training from our earliest days playing as it coincided with Volleyball Ireland’s underage development program. This years Senior tournament will be tough but we have performed well against these countries at various levels over the years so we’re not daunted by them. We will be looking to perform well and getting the chance to compete for Ireland is a privilege we all take very seriously.”
Ballyea’s TJ Sweeney cannot wait for the action to begin.
“It’s a massive honour to get the chance to represent my country in the upcoming SCA. I’m excited to experience this competition with three of my former club teammates from Clare. We’ve been training hard for this tournament and can’t wait to get over to San Marino to show everyone what we’ve been working on.”
With huge passion and no little skill these Clare girls will no doubt represent themselves, their families, their county and their country with distinction and one never knows- gold medals could be coming home.

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