Fresh off their stunning SuperLeague Cup victory last weekend, Bord Gais Neptune will now be looking to mount a challenge for the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague crown as they play DCU Saints in Cork on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, the two teams directly ahead of Neptune, UL Eagles and UCC Demons, meet on Sunday afternoon at the Mardyke Arena in perhaps the biggest game to date in the 2012-13 season.
Elsewhere, the battle for fourth spot and a place in the Champions Trophy end-of-year competition heats up as Moycullen face UCD Marian while Dublin Inter play Killester. Moycullen and Inter then make it a double weekend for their sides as they meet in Galway on Sunday.
In the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague, Liffey Celtics have the unenviable task taking on both DCU Mercy and Team Montenotte Hotel Cork, while Ulster Rockets host Singleton SuperValu Brunell as Killester and Meteors play off in an all-Dublin derby game.
The two pre-season favourites - UL Eagles and UCC Demons - have controlled the top two positions in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague from the very first weekend of action. This is their third meeting of 2012-13 with both teams having beaten each other once.
Presently tied on losses with just an extra game played and won by Eagles separating them in the table, a positive result for either team on Sunday will go a long way to determining the eventual champions.
“This is a crucial game for both teams on Sunday next. It really is a must win for both of us,” said Eagles head coach Mark Keenan, whose side lost to Bord Gais Neptune last weekend in the Men’s SuperLeague Cup final.
“We need to prove to ourselves that we can play better than what we showed last weekend in the cup final, so it’s game on for us.”
While Demons head coach Paul Kelleher recognises the importance of the game, he said it would be disrespectful to the rest of the league to think that Sunday’s clash will decide the title.
“Every team this year has been capable of beating everyone else. There will be another month of games and to think that the winner of Sunday has the league is disrespectful to all the other teams.”
With the league title likely to land in either Cork or Limerick, the rest of the teams in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague will be eyeing up fourth spot and a place in the end-of-season Champions Trophy.
Currently in fifth position and trailing DCU Saints by just one game, Killester will be eager to notch a win against a surging Dublin Inter outfit on Friday night at the National Basketball Arena.
Having quickly acclimatised to life in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague, Dublin Inter are not out of making a run on fourth themselves and Killester head coach Tom Doherty is well aware of the threat they pose.
“They ran Neptune close and have beaten Saints, Marian and Moycullen this year so they are an excellent, hard-working and tough team,” said Doherty.
“After the break in action for the cup, all the players want to play and the hunger is there to which will be important Friday night.”
Another team with an eye on fourth place will be Moycullen of Galway.
Their young side have faltered slightly of late and will need a strong finish to make the Champions Trophy. With two games this weekend against UCD Marian and then Dublin Inter, they have a perfect chance to rise up the table.
In the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague the hunt for playoff spots is well and truly on as just two games separate five teams.
While the top three of DCU Mercy, Team Montenotte Hotel Cork and UL Huskies all seem guaranteed of a play-off berth, only three out of Killester, Ulster Rockets, Singleton SuperValu Brunell, WIT Wildcats and Meteors will join them.
The meeting of Rockets and Brunell in Belfast on Saturday pits two of these teams against one another with both teams sitting on four wins and six losses so far.
Rockets head coach Breda Dick is hoping the fact that her side has not played a game since January will not be a hindrance.
“A lot of the Brunell team were involved in the Under-20 National Cup win last weekend and will be on a high with that success. They are an excellent shooting side but I think we have the players to handle that and we’ll have to use our height advantage to gain an edge.”
The all-Dublin clash of Meteors and Killester Saturday night takes on increased significance as the two teams jostle for playoff spots.
“In the last five meetings between the teams, I don’t think that there has been more than four points between us and Saturday is likely to be the very same and come right down to the wire,” said Meteors head coach Hugh Kilbride.
“It’s a crucial game for both of us and whoever loses is very likely to then miss playoffs so it’s a big game.”
Elsewhere in the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague Liffey Celtics, still searching for their first win of the season, face a daunting weekend schedule that has them playing both DCU Mercy and Team Montenotte Hotel Cork, while champions UL Huskies enjoy a weekend off.