The big Cork derby between Bord Gais Neptune and UCC Demons forms part of a terrific schedule of the men’s and women’s SuperLeague National Cup semi-finals that will take place at Neptune Stadium.
In the other men’s SuperLeague National Cup semi-finals, 11890 Killester will clash with Limerick side UL Eagles and this has also the ingredients of being a thrilling encounter.
In the women’s SuperLeague National Cup semi-finals, Team Montenotte Hotel have it all to do to dispose of current league leaders UL, while the reigning champions DCU Mercy will be taking nothing for granted ahead of their clash with 11890 Killester.
Neptune and Blue Demons is one of the oldest rivalries in Irish sport and no doubt Sunday’s semi-final will not be for the faint hearted.
Demons defeated Neptune by 35 points in the Cork Christmas derby but that will count for nothing on this occasion according to their head coach Paul Kelleher.
"Neptune and Demons are always great occasions for basketball and I'm sure this encounter will be no different,” said Kelleher.
“Neptune are on a great run of form the last few weeks and will be very tough to beat, especially on their home court and that will make them favourites for the game.”
The mood in the Neptune camp is upbeat as their coach Mark Scannell hopes his side can bounce back from their defeat when the teams last clashed.
“As a team we have had to take a lot of criticism after the last game but fair play to the players they responded by winning two games on the road,” Scannell said.
“Confidence did take a bit of a battering after the league defeat but hopefully we will give it a real go.”
11890 Killester will be hoping to go a step closer and make amends for last season’s surprise National Cup final loss to UCD Marian when they meet UL Eagles on Saturday night.
The Dubliners will travel to Cork in confident mood following their overtime win over UCC Demons last weekend.
“We are really looking forward to Saturday, last weekend’s win was a huge boost after our unfortunate loss to DCU Saints,” said Killester coach Darren O’Neill.
“We know it is going to be a really tough game but we are injury free and the team are raring to go.
“Last season’s loss in the final still rankles with those of the squad that played in that game whereas it is a new experience for five of the squad and they are up for it.”
For UL Eagles coach Mark Keenan, the game will see him face his former charges 11890 Killester, who he led to the treble in 2010.
“I am really excited about the game and looking forward to the challenge of playing against Killester in a cup semi final,” said Killester coach Mark Keenan.
“If we perform to our ability we can beat them as we did at home already this season.
“Killester have great experience with players like Jermaine Turner and Pete Madsen and containing these two guys will be critical for us. I really think this game will come right down to the wire and I can’t wait for the weekend to come along.”
UL and Team Montenotte Hotel are involved in the first semi-final of the women’s SuperLeague semi-final.
The Limerick side will go into the game on the back of a 12-month unbeaten league record but coach James Weldon is well aware of the threat that lies ahead of his team.
“Montenotte are a very good side with excellent players like Niamh Dwyer and Valarie O’Driscoll,” said Weldon.
“We have had a good year so far and what we have done has worked so far. It’s probably the most important game so far of the season. There is time to recover if you lose in the league but lose on Saturday and we are out.”
Montenotte coach Cormac O’Donoghue is well aware of the task that lies ahead for his side.
“We know we have a huge task ahead of us as UL beat us by 16 points early in the year but during that game we made a lot of errors and now we are playing better basketball,” said O’Donoghue.
Reigning champions DCU Mercy are seeking their third successive cup title this season but will be wary of semi-final and capital rivals 11890 Killester.
Killester are enjoying a fine season and lie just one place behind Mercy in fourth position in the league
“If we are not sharp then we could be punished,” said Mercy coach Mark Ingle.
“They are a very well drilled team under coach Mark Grennell and it’s always a tough game when we face them.”
Killester’s Fiona Carrick, who missed the whole of last season through injury is relishing their clash with DCU.
"I think our team is well capable of winning and we are extremely determined to beat DCU on Sunday,” insisted Carrick.
"Our team has progressed hugely over the past few years under the great coaching of Mark. It will be a very tough game, there is no doubting that. I think with our balanced fully fit team and the preparation we have, I've every confidence in us that we can do it."