As the race to the top continues, this weekend’s fixtures could potentially decide which teams are crowned the 2012-2013 SuperLeague regular season winners for both men’s and women’s leagues.
In the Nivea for men’s SuperLeague red-hot favourites and reigning league champions, UL Eagles will take on Dublin Inter as they look to secure the top spot with a win over the new boys.
Meanwhile, Cork rivals UCC Demons and Bord Gais Neptune will meet for the final time this season as the National Cup champions hope to oversee a wounded Demons.
Demons will also have the task of taking on a fearless Dublin-Inter side as both teams have a double weekend ahead.
Elsewhere in Dublin, northside opponents DCU Saints and Killester will battle it out as UCD Marian prepares to take on a feisty Moycullen.
In the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague, the biggest game of the weekend will see Team Montenotte Hotel Cork take on UL Huskies as they look to reverse the cup result and pull out another win over the reigning league champions.
Liffey Celtics will take on Ulster Rockets while DCU Mercy welcomes Singleton SuperValu Brunell to the capital.
Coming off the back of a tough cup defeat, UL Eagles have been focused and motivated to retain their regular season title. Their performances over Demons and Neptune respectively have allowed them to play with confidence once more as they secure more vital wins.
Friday night will see them face off with Dublin Inter as they look to distance themselves from the rest on the league table.
Head coach of UL Eagles, Mark Keenan, said, “We are fired up and ready to go. This is a huge game for us as we need two more wins from our next four games to win the league title and we want those wins as soon as possible.”
“This battle will be a real dog-fight. Depending on how other results go we have a chance of closing the league out this weekend. However, Inter have been playing very well and we are carrying a few injuries so we need to go out strong in order to get a good result this weekend.”
Inter’s head coach, Irmantas Griksas, is excited for the challenge, “It is an honour to play UL Eagles. They are the defending champions so we are hungry and motivated to put it up to them.”
“The beauty of this league is that everyone can beat everyone. We are hungry for more wins and that is what we will look for this weekend.”
Friday will also see the historic Cork rivalry between Demons and Neptune undertake take its final clash this season when both teams meet in the Mardyke.
As National Cup winners, Neptune will enter the game with confidence having knocked Demons out of the running for the title back in January. However, after a tough defeat to Eagles on the road the Mark Scannell’s side will need to regroup to get a result against an eager Demons side in their home gym.
Scannell said, “This is a big game for us, we had a disappointing result last week and suffering with injuries didn’t help us. We have an advantage coming into the game as cup champions but we need to remember the cup is over.”
“There is nothing more dangerous than a fired-up Demons on their home court. So we need to prepared for that and produce a performance worthy of a win.
“We need Eagles to drop a game in order for us to challenge the league title, if they don’t then it is between both ourselves and Demons to take that second spot.”
Demons coach Paul Kelleher added, “We have certain targets that we want to achieve this season, finishing the regular season strong and getting ready for the play-offs are the most important ones for us.”
“We need to focus on ourselves in order to get back on track. Injuries have slowed us down the last few weeks and halted our momentum, this is the first time in a while that our core seven players are in so we can get our rotations right.”
“This will be a physical game we need to stay sharp and focus if we want to get back on our feet.”
Meanwhile, Saturday will see DCU Saints take on their local rivals, Killester. Both teams have endured patches of good and bad results this season but as the race for play-off positions heats up it is obvious that both sides will be ready to go all guns blazing in order to get a win on the night.
Speaking about the game, David Donnelly, DCU Saints head coach said, “We are doing well this week in practice. We know this is going to be a tough game but our approach is to apply good defence and capitalised on scoring more easy points from breaking the ball.”
“Unfortunately, we will be without the help of Conor Grace but Mike Trimmer has been back training with us and will suit up for the game.”
On the other side of the city, UCD Marian will face off with Moycullen. The game will make for an interesting one as although the Galway lads that got the better of the southsiders twice before this season a new and rejuvenated Marian will look to sneak a win.
Marian’s coach Fran Ryan admitted: “This is a hard one to call, we have home advantage and have been playing well but they did get the better of us before.”
“We have been playing much better basketball since Christmas and this is definitely reflected in the mood on the team. We are looking to build from our last performance and come away with a win this weekend.”
Sunday will see UCC Demons and Dublin Inter meet once more as both teams are up for a double weekend of games.
In the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague the biggest game of the weekend and perhaps this season will see Team Montenotte Hotel Cork take on UL Huskies once last time.
It was Team Montenotte who put an end to the Huskies 44 game winning streak before Christmas and since the defeat in the National Cup final, the Cork side will be geared up to get revenge.
Huskies head coach, James Weldon said, “We began preparing for this game straight after the cup, we know how important this fixture is as the winner could take it all.”
“We have a good record in Cork and are back to full strength so everyone is rearing to go.”
“The regular season title is a special one for us, it was the first one we won two seasons ago and we want to hold onto it.”
Other games this weekend will see Liffey Celtics challenge Ulster Rockets and DCU Mercy take on Singleton SuperValu Brunell.