Last season’s National Cup finalists renew acquaintances this weekend in the Basketball Ireland Men’s Premier League when UL Eagles travel to Cork to face Bord Gáis Neptune in Neptune Stadium on Saturday night.
So far this year, Eagles have just one league loss while Neptune have two. Both are chasing the undefeated sides of C&S UCC Demons and Killester.
Neptune guard Ger Noonan is well aware that another loss this early will seriously dent his team’s title challenge.
“Three losses would be a big thing at the moment. Demons and Killester play each other over the Christmas and one has to lose.
“We really want to be only one game behind one of them and two behind the other.
“Being three back of either would be tough.”
League leaders Killester are in action in Dublin where they play Templeogue in Inchicore’s Oblate Hall, also on Saturday night.
Killester will be strong favourites to prove too much for a Templeogue side that showed battling qualities in an eventual cup loss to DCU Saints a weekend ago.
Also in Dublin, DCU Saints play cross-city rivals UCD Marian. Marian have easily been the most inconsistent team this year, evident in their round one cup loss to Demons – where a 30 point second-leg win was not enough to advance due to their 31-point first leg loss.
While UCD came within a hair of being the unquestioned story of last weekend’s cup games, their failure meant that that honour went to Dublin Inter who dumped defending league champs Eagles out after three periods of extra time.
Dublin Inter will be looking to carry the momentum from that win with them to Galway where they face the young SSE Renewables Moycullen outfit still in search of their first home win.
On Sunday, title favourites C&S UCC Demons venture north to play Belfast Star, who under the guidance of former Barcelona coach Jose Maria Berrocal, have become a formidable outfit.
It remains to be seen how damaged Demons are following their near collapse against Marian or whether the test will have improved them.
In the Women’s Premier League, Sunday sees the clash of undefeated Singleton SuperValu Brunell and defending league champions UL Huskies in Cork.
Brunell have been a revelation so far this season as their young squad have swept all before them. This weekend will see them face their sternest test yet, however, as Huskies have been the pre-eminent team in recent years
“We haven’t faced a top team like UL yet so we will see now after this game and the ones after if we can stay undefeated,” said Brunell captain Danielle O’Leary.
“Just from pre-season, we have been able to match up with them a little bit better than in the past.
“We have more height this season and they have also lost Michelle Fahy (retired), who was such a huge player for them.”
Elsewhere in women’s league this weekend, Wildcats and Meteors look to rediscover their misplaced winning form when they play Liffey Celtics and DCU Mercy, respectively, while Ulster Rockets host Team Hotel Montenotte.