With just three weekend’s remaining in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague, it remains all to play for as teams chase both the title and a top four finish that would grant passage to the Champions Trophy in March.
The Nivea Women’s SuperLeague, which unlike the men will be decided by playoffs, enters its penultimate weekend of regular season play as teams jostle for home court advantage.
For defending Men’s SuperLeague champions UL Eagles, the task ahead is a straightforward one. Win their remaining games and they lift the title, lose and the door is opened for the chasing UCC Demons.
This Saturday, Eagles face a red-hot UCD Marian team that won three games in nine days last week to reinvigorate a season that had been on the brink of disaster.
“We spoke about playing for some self-respect and I have to hand it to the team, for all the changes since Christmas the spirit and togetherness has been terrific,” said UCD Marian head coach Fran Ryan.
While not realistically in the chase for fourth, Marian are a team on a roll who, having beaten every team in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague except for Eagles this year, will be not be short of motivation.
“Limerick is a tough place to go and get a win but we look forward to playing the role of kingmaker a bit and hopefully having a say in who the champion is,” added Ryan.
Earlier in the day, Eagles’ closest challenger UCC Demons travel to Galway on Saturday to face Moycullen in a must win game for the Leesiders.
Two wins from two games last weekend kept their title dreams alive, but only just. Having played an extra game to Eagles they still have one less win and need the Limerick side to slip up if they are to lift the SuperLeague trophy.
Head coach Paul Kelleher has been encouraged by his team’s play however and feels like they are finally getting some of the breaks that eluded them earlier in 2013.
“In recent months we haven't hit clutch shots when the games were close down the stretch but this past weekend we did make those shots. This weekend against Moycullen will be as a difficult a task as there is. We are facing a Moycullen team who are still hungry and very much in the mix for the post-season Champions Trophy."
Moycullen find themselves entangled with Killester and DCU Saints in a tight battle for fourth and are desperate for their first ever post-season berth. This is the club’s fourth season in the SuperLeague.
A pivotal fixture in that chase for fourth takes place in Galway the following day as Moycullen once again play the role of hosts with DCU Saints coming to town. Having beaten each other once already already this season and tied on seven wins and ten losses, the result will hand the winner what could be a crucial head to head tie-breaker.
The only other game of the weekend in the Men’s SuperLeague pits cup champions Bord Gais Neptune against Dublin Inter in Cork on Saturday night.
In the Women’s SuperLeague, playoffs are around the corner and as the playoff picture grows clearer, the battle for home-court advantage intensifies.
Ulster Rockets, Meteors and WIT Wildcats are all in action this weekend and with just one game separating the teams, every win is vital.
While Wildcats will be favourites to earn a victory over Liffey Celtics on Saturday night, both Rockets and Meteors will be underdogs entering their respective clashes with Team Montenotte Hotel Cork and DCU Mercy.
Elsewhere, Singleton SuperValu Brunell, who are still mathematically alive in the playoff race, welcome Killester to the Parochial Hall in Cork for what could be a Women’s SuperLeague Plate final preview.
The top six in the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague advance to playoffs with the top two getting byes to the semi-finals. Looking at the standings, UL Huskies, Team Montenotte Hotel Cork, DCU Mercy, Ulster Rockets, Meteors and WIT Wildcats look likely to grab these spots.
The remaining three teams – Singleton SuperValu Brunell, Killester and Liffey Celtics – will enter the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague Plate competition, with the bottom two playing off a semi-final to earn the right to play the highest seed in the final.