Basketball Ireland Premier League Weekend Previews
UL Eagles v C&S UCC Demons, UL Sport Arena, Saturday 7.30pm
Returned hero Colin O’Reilly takes command for his first game as player coach for C&S UCC Demons this weekend when his charges travel to Limerick to face defending champions UL Eagles Saturday night.
“The first game is always a nervy enough affair as you are worried about have you done enough or have you done too much,” said O’Reilly.
“I’ve had some great help so far, particularly from Tim O'Halloran who has stepped in as assistant coach. The players have really bought in.”
As for Eagles, O’Reilly acknowledges that taking on the defending champions in the opening game is a massive ask.
“We are two of the top contenders so a win this early could really set the tone for the rest of the season for either team. It’s great for everyone to have a game like this so early in the season.”
Captain of UL Eagles, Neil Campbell, agrees that Saturday is a game that carries a lot of intrigue for the basketball public.
“I think everyone is curious to see just how good Demons can be. The addition of Colin O’Reilly as a player coach and what has to be one of the deepest and most talented squads in the league has put them into the favourites slot for me.”
UCD Marian v Killester, UCD Sports Centre, Saturday 7pm
Like Demons, UCD Marian open their season this weekend with a new coach at the helm. They play cross-city rivals Killester at home in the first game of Greek native Ionnis Ciapkis’ tenure.
“It is a new coach and a new system so we are still getting used to it and learning all the intricacies,” said Marian stalwart, Conor Meany.
“Hopefully the extra week of pre-season will have stood to us.
“I saw some of Killester’s game against Dublin Inter last weekend and they share the ball really well. (Michael) Bonaparte is a great scorer and with Isaac (Westbrook) and (Ciaran) Roe, they penetrate with the dribble really well.”
Despite the new coaching set-up in Marian, Killester captain Mike Westbrook maintained that Saturday’s derby game will still feature many familiar match-ups.
Westbrook said: “It is difficult to gauge how they will play but we know a lot of their players really well from season’s past. We really won’t be focusing on them too much and will just concentrate on what we need to do.”
Dublin Inter v Templeogue, Mountvie Y&C Club, Saturday 6pm
After an impressive but ultimately disappointing losing start to life in the top flight last weekend, Templeogue must dust themselves off quickly for an away tie against the unpredictable Dublin Inter.
“We were happy to have proven to ourselves and to everyone that we can compete in this league,” said Templeogue’s Luke Thompson of his team’s narrow loss to DCU Saints in the opening round of games.
“We know Dublin Inter are an excellent team and we will have to shoot the ball a lot better if we are to go one better than last weekend and get the win,” added Thompson.
Inter suffered a loss in their first outing last weekend where a rampaging Killester could not be contained at home.
Relying heavily on Aurimas Statkus and Mindaugas Tamusauskas for scores (a combined 36 points in the Killester outing) Inter coach Sarunas Cesnakauskas will likely be more concerned with his team’s defence this weekend as they will look to be far stingier against Templeogue than they were against Killester.
DCU Saints v Belfast Star, DCU Sports Complex, Saturday 7pm
Belfast Star also came tantalisingly close to opening up their first season back in the top flight with a win when they fell to Bord Gais Neptune by just three points last weekend. It is a hurt they will be keen to rectify this time out against DCU Saints.
“It was disappointing for sure, it would have been nice to get a win our first game but we are a new team and there was a lot of good stuff we can take from it,” said young Star guard, Paul Dick.
“We played DCU Saints in the pre-season and won so that gives us some confidence but we can’t read very much into that as they have some top class players.”
Saints’ Eoin Darling said his team will enter the game ripe with confidence following their opening round win over Templeogue last Saturday.
“It was good to get off to a winning start and put in a good performance like we did,” remarked Darling.
“There are still plenty of thing we will be looking on to improve this weekend, probably most of all our defence and limiting the amount of open looks we allowed.”
Bord Gais Neptune v Moycullen, Neptune Stadium, Sunday 3pm
The only Sunday game in the Men’s Premier League sees Moycullen of Galway travel to Cork to face Bord Gais Neptune. It is their second straight road game, following a tough loss to UL Eagles last weekend in Limerick.
“We did a decent job in Limerick but we need to improve a lot,” said Moycullen coach Salva Camps.
“This is still like pre-season for us because we have so many new players and so many from last season gone. The guys are still learning how I want them to play and this will take time.
“Neptune are one of the best teams in the league and we just have to do our best to play our game our way.”
While Moycullen may have several new faces on the court, Bord Gais Neptune’s Ian McLoughlin feels like his Neptune squad will be well prepared.
“Last weekend we had Star who were new to the league and with a new coach so it was hard to prepare and we were learning about them as the game happened.
“Moycullen have the same coach back again and will have that same fighting mentality and style. That said, we don’t ever want to get too caught up in what other teams are doing anyway and just need to settle into our game,” said McLoughlin.
“We have more depth this year than last season with the young lads from a year ago getting older plus the addition of Roy Downey, which has given us a lot more options at the guard spot.”
Women’s Premier League
UL Huskies v Meteors, UL Sport Arena, Saturday 6pm
Defending Basketball Ireland Women’s Premier League champions, UL Huskies, made their intent clear last weekend with a resounding win over rivals DCU Mercy and will be firm favourites to win at home this weekend against Meteors of Dublin.
Huskies Rachael Vanderwal, who hit 19 points against Mercy, described the mood in the camp as great, saying: “To have a win against a team like DCU Mercy in our first game was great and hopefully set the tone for the rest of the season.
“We will bring the confidence from that into the Meteors game who are always a tough team to play. They have real speed and a number of really good shooters.”
For Beth Meany of Meteors, the challenge of facing Huskies on the road is one to look forward to.
“We are excited about it. It is obviously a huge challenge going down to Limerick looking for a win but we know them pretty well at this stage.
“They have a very well structured team and probably have a height advantage on us so being able to mind our own boards will be important. That said, we may have a quickness advantage so we will have to make that count.”
Liffey Celtics v Team Montenotte Hotel, Leixlip Amenities Centre, Saturday 7.30pm
Many people’s second favourites to lift the Premier League title at year’s end is Team Montenotte Hotel of Glanmire, Cork. This season sees Paul Kelleher, formerly of C&S UCC Demons in the men’s league, take over as head coach.
“Pre-season has been very enjoyable and the team put in a lot of hard work,” said Kelleher, who added that Claire Rockall’s long awaited return to top flight action will be this weekend while last season’s top scorer Niamh Dwyer remains a game time decision following a pre-season injury.
Montenotte’s opponents are Liffey Celtics, a team much improved on last year.
“They have picked up Shelby Smith from the United States who is a really nice player,” said Kelleher.
“She is a good communicator and a real leader on the court while their Spanish player Irene Sanchez is a genuine match-up problem for us.”
Liffey Celtics forward, Aine O’Connor echoed the sentiment that Celtics were an improved outfit this season.
O’Connor said: “We are definitely a lot more optimistic about this season. Saturday will be a good test against Team Montenotte. Playing solid defence and above all, controlling the boards will be the keys for us.”
WIT Wildcats v Killester, Mercy SS, Sunday 2.30pm
This weekend marks WIT Widlcats first game of the 2013-14 regular season. They play a hard to gauge Killester outfit that has plenty of talent but failed to produce on the opening weekend, falling to Singleton SuperValu Brunell, 55 to 67.
“We have really worked hard on our defence all week at training,” said Killester guard Michelle Clarke.
“We are hoping that if we can step up our defensive intensity then that will spark our offence.
“Wildcats have a lot of players that can hurt you and in the past their inside players, in particular Cathy Kavanagh have done damage grabbing second and third opportunities, so that is something we need to be very mindful of travelling there on Sunday.”
Singleton SuperValu Brunell v Ulster Rockets, Parochial Hall, Sunday 2.45pm
The final game of the weekend in the Women’s Premier League is very likely to be the closest as Singleton SuperValu Brunell and Ulster Rockets have a rich recent history of close encounters.
“We are ery similar teams and there is rarely ever more than a point or two between us as it’s normally fairly even matched,” said Rockets head coach Breda Dick.
Rockets eked out a three point win against Meteors last weekend, a game in which they relied heavily for scoring on Mairead McNally (21 points) and Kerri Shields (21 points).
Coach Dick is hoping for a better spread this Sunday: “Our other players are more than capable of stepping up and will step up. I fancy our other American Brittney Waters in particular to contribute more and more as she settles into the team.”
However, Singleton SuperValu Brunell coach, Kieran O’Leary is still in no doubt who the danger players are.
He said: “If we can cut down the amount they (McNally and Shields) score then we will be a long way to winning.
“We have been playing better this season so far and the addition of Celia Mendez inside is really helping the whole team play a lot better.”