This season’s undefeated pacesetters UCC Demons take on last year’s league and cup champions UL Eagles in the latest round of Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague action.
Prior to that mouth-watering tie however, Eagles will have to square off against Dublin Inter on Friday night, the first game of their double header weekend. There is also a double header weekend for Killester who travel to Galway on Saturday to play Moycullen before returning to Dublin on Sunday to take on UCD Marian.
Also in action over the weekend are DCU Saints and Bord Gais Neptune who meet in Neptune Stadium Saturday night.
The highlight of the weekend is undoubtedly that top of the table clash between UL Eagles and UCC Demons on Saturday night in UL Arena.
“This is a huge weekend for us,” remarked Eagles head coach Mark Keenan.
"We have remained focused all season on just what is in front of us and that is part of the reason we have been successful I think" - Paul Kelleher
“UCC Demons have set the pace all the way from the start of the league in late September and really, we must go after the win to keep the pressure on at the top end of the league.”
Demons coach Paul Kelleher is not thinking big picture and has his team focused entirely on this weekend’s game.
He said: “We haven’t looked beyond this weekend at all. We have remained focused all season on just what is in front of us and that is part of the reason we have been successful I think.”
Eagles do not have the luxury of simply focusing on the Demons game however as they must first hurdle a potentially tricky Dublin Inter game on Friday night. Inter put a serious dent in Bord Gais Neptune’s title aspirations last weekend, defeating the third placed SuperLeague side by 11 points, and will be looking to cause an even bigger upset this weekend.
“We played Eagles pretty well last time we played. We were close at half time and then had one of the worst shooting performances I have ever seen in the second half. If we can play again, for the full 40 minutes like we did in that first half we can win,” said Inter coach Audrius Jonusas.
Keenan is well aware that his side cannot afford to overlook the game on Friday as they prepare for the weekend. “Dublin Inter will have gained confidence from their win last Sunday and I expect a really tough battle from them up in the National Basketball Arena,” he said.
Bord Gais Neptune coach Mark Scannell has plenty to ponder as he tries to rally his team for their match with DCU Saints. Aside from their surprise loss to Dublin Inter a week ago, Scannell is also dealing with a number of injuries to key players in his squad.
“Ger Noonan and Michael McGinn are both suffering with injuries at the moment and our American (Darren Townes) has been back and forth to the physio and we aren’t sure if he is going to recover,” said Scannell.
“Ger was a huge loss for us last weekend when he came out in the first half. He tried to play again in the fourth but couldn’t go and McGinn picked up a dead leg and we just have to wait and see if that can loosen up for him,” added Scannell.
DCU Saints coach Dave Donnelly will have little sympathy for his Neptune counterpart however as he has panel selection worries of his own, with impactful centre Martins Provizors unlikely to be available for Saturday’s fixture.
Despite that setback and a current four game losing streak, Donnelly insists that the mood in the camp is good. This team were league finalists last year and two of their last four losses came courtesy of one-point and overtime defeats.
“We have had a lot of close games and the guys are still working extremely hard in training so we are not pessimistic about travelling down to Cork, even to face a team of Neptune’s quality,” said Donnelly.
In Galway, Moycullen welcome Killester of Dublin to NUIG on Saturday afternoon. Former Galway hoop hero Puff Summers, who lined out for Moycullen during their first ever SuperLeague season three years ago, now dons the Killester jersey, a fact that is sure to add extra interest to the sides’ matchup this weekend.
Neither team will need much extra motivation however as they have both been left lagging towards the bottom of the table with just two wins.
Killester are coming off a bad loss to UCD Marian last Saturday but will have a chance at revenge this weekend when they follow up the Moycullen game on Saturday with a Marian rematch on Sunday.
"They will be very tough to beat two times in a row" - Sasa Punosevac
Despite a comfortable 23-point winning margin, Marian coach Sasa Punosevac is wary of a Killester backlash this weekend.
“They will be very tough to beat two times in a row. We are completely focused on the game coming and have forgotten about the old game, the next is a new one and we are ready for that.”
In the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague, the weekend fans in WIT Wildcats have waited for all season finally arrives on Saturday when Terran Condrey, who arrived over the summer from America to study at WIT, finally becomes eligible to play.
Condrey was a key member of the historically good Baylor University Women’s team in Texas, who last year went undefeated en route to a highly publicised NCAA Division One National Championship.
She lines out this weekend for the first time in Wildcats colours when they face Killester in Mercy College Saturday night.
Elsewhere, DCU Mercy and UL Basketball Club will aim to continue their unbeaten starts to the season with away games against Singleton SuperValu Brunell and Liffey Celtics respectively.
Meanwhile, Meteors host third placed Team Montenotte Hotel Cork in Dublin. Cork have just the one loss so far this year but will be wary going up against a Meteors side who came within nine points of causing a major upset when these two teams met in the first weekend of the season.