The Basketball SuperLeague National Cup men’s and women’s finals take place at the National Basketball Arena on Friday night.
UCC Demons and UL Eagles meet in the men’s final, while UL take on DCU Mercy in the women’s decider.
Demons will be looking to make it a third win this season against UL Eagles.
Cork giants Demons put in a storming third quarter in their first league clash and eventually ran out comfortable 14-point winners.
When the teams met a month later in Cork, Demons edged the Eagles by five points.
“UL Eagles have a vast amount of experience where all but one of their first six players have years of experience of playing in the USA in college,” said Demons coach Paul Kelleher.
“Rob Lynch and Matt Hall are previous winners, while Rob Taylor and Jason Killeen have European experience so this tells you the magnitude of the task ahead of us on Friday night. We are going to have to work if we are to get the desired result we are looking for.”
UL Eagles will be hoping their coach Mark Keenan’s vastly experienced cup CV will stand to them.
Keenan lead Killester to the title in 2010 before a late rally from UCD Marian thwarted his hopes of back to back trophies in 2011.
“UCC Demons have shown what a powerful team they are with some convincing wins over Neptune and Belfast Star over the last few weeks,” said Keenan. “Simply, we will need to be at our best in order to challenge for Cup honours. They have multiple players that can score big so team defence will be the key to our challenge.”
When Demons defeated UL the Limerick side did not have American Robert Taylor, who on his day is a serious threat going to the hoop.
Carlton Cuff could be the Demons ace given the job of stopping Taylor’s threat.
Eagles also have 6’10 Jason Killeen and he will match up with Demons American Shawn Atupem.
The contributions of UCC captain Shane Coughlan and Niall O’Reilly will be a key to the destination of this final.
Coughlan is an outstanding leader that likes nothing better than showing his skills on the big stage as he still holds the record of being the only Irish player to be awarded MVP in the consecutive cup finals of 2004/2005.
Niall O’Reilly is a born warrior and when you throw in the likes of Niall Murphy, Ciaran O’Sullivan, Shane Duggan and Kyle Hosford they have assembled a serious panel of players.
Matt Hall and Niall Campbell are renowned for keeping their best form against UCC Demons and the Cork side will need to be focused on their threats outside the perimeter in what should be an intriguing encounter.
In the Women’s final, DCU Mercy go head to head with UL with the Dublin side bidding to win their third consecutive title.
Mercy’s hopes will be tested to the hilt by a UL outfit who haven’t experienced defeat in over a year of action.
“We are up against a massive test against a UL side who haven’t experienced defeat in quite a while,” said Mercy coach Mark Ingle. “They will be huge favourites coming into this final. They already beat us in the league convincingly this season but we were very poor on the day.
“It’s the cup and expect the unexpected,” added Ingle. “The three is a row is a nice prospect but not something you really think about. It’s a new cup, a new year and hopefully we can manage to win it.”
UL will be desperate their unbeaten run doesn’t end up coming unstuck on the most important weekend of the club’s recent history.
“This is our biggest game so far of the season,” said UL coach James Weldon. “We take great confidence from our unbeaten record, it’s not something that is playing on our minds ahead of this game.
“You cannot read too much into the league game earlier in the season,” he added. “DCU probably weren’t playing as well as they could and are playing much better at the moment. DCU’s recent record in the cup is strong and that is great testament to their coach Mark Ingle and a great group of players.
“It’s a one off game but from our point of view we have been consistently strong this year and we hope it will continue at the weekend.”