A single basket was all that stopped the two top teams in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague from losing at the weekend as UL Eagles and UCC Demons were both engaged in tight affairs.
While Demons emerged victorious from their scrap with Cork city rivals Bord Gais Neptune, UL Eagles suffered a shock defeat in Dublin at the hands of Killester.
Elsewhere, DCU Saints continued their recent revival with a convincing win away to UCD Marian on Sunday.
Speaking after his team’s heroic performance against UL Eagles in the IWA Centre in Clontarf on Saturday night, Killester head coach Tom Doherty said:
“These guys give everything, they epitomise hard work and unselfishness. Limerick have beaten us a few times in succession so pride was at stake and I think we deserved the win,” he said.
“We won’t be going overboard, there are a number of areas we need to improve on but we got a lot of things right.”
A key area of success for Killester was their defensive rebounding as the inside rotation of Michael Bonaparte, Kieran O’Brien, Alan Casey and Mike Westbrooks kept the powerful Eagles’ front court off the offensive boards.
Doherty also pointed to the containment job his team did on the potent UL backcourt of Rob Taylor and Scott Kinevane.
“They (UL Eagles) are a class outfit and even when they were down 30 they came back at us to make it close in the end. Thankfully, unlike the Neptune game recently, we held our nerve and found a way to win when we needed to,” said Doherty.
Limerick have beaten us a few times in succession so pride was at stake - Killester head coach Tom Doherty
Killester will have little time to celebrate the win however as they are back in action mid-week in Cork against Bord Gais Neptune who will be eager to avenge their two point loss to UCC Demons over the weekend.
Despite trailing by 17 points at the half-time mark in the Friday night fixture, Neptune rallied in the third and fourth quarter to bring the deficit down to just a single point with under a minute remaining.
However, Neptune’s Darren Townes missed a golden opportunity to become the hero as his final shot attempt missed the target only to be rebounded by Demons’ Kenton Walker who was fouled and nailed one free-throw to secure victory for the home side as they improved to 10 wins on the season.
The game marked the second time this season that the Cork derby threw up a thrilling finish after a scrappy contest and sets up a hugely intriguing SuperLeague Cup semi-final in less than two weeks’ time between the sides when another capacity crowd is expected to enjoy the spectacle.
Perhaps conscious of that cup game ahead, Demons head coach Paul Kelleher was reluctant to be overly-joyous after the game.
“We need to start improving our second half performances. That game should never have been that close at the end but we let them get out and start running in the second half which they can do exceptionally well,” he said.
“We need to be more clinical, after a solid start by us they went on and buried us in the second half.”
That game should never have been that close at the end - Demons head coach Paul Kelleher
A contributing factor to Demons second half collapse was undoubtedly the absence of three key figures for them, namely Shane Duggan, Niall Murphy and Ciaran O’Sullivan with fatigue becoming a major factor late in the game.
Coach Kelleher will be hoping at least two of these will be back in full health come next weekend for their meeting with UCD Marian as well as the cup fixture with Neptune the following Friday night.
In their league match at the weekend, UCD Marian suffered from the absence of their American centre John Galvin as they fell to DCU Saints 65 to 81.
The win moves Saints to six wins and six losses on the season, placing them fourth in the league and just one game behind third placed Neptune.
There were strong performances from Saints’ inside out combination of Martins Provisors and Keith Anderson who combined for 44 points and had their team in a comfortable position throughout the game.
“We talked before the game about the fact that we were bigger than them and we got a lot of use out of posting guys up which helped us build the lead,” said Saints’ head coach Dave Donnelly.
“They doubled down on us after a while and switched to zone which did cause us problems but Keith Anderson and Eoin Quill made some shots that stretched the floor again for us.”