A hectic weekend of Irish basketball gets underway Friday night in Cork’s Neptune Stadium with the hosting of the Champions Trophy semi-finals.
The final of the competition, along with the final of the Women’s Premier League are then scheduled for the same venue on Sunday with a plethora of top quality games sandwiched in between.
Local Leeside powerhouses C&S UCC Demons are first on court when they face upstart JM&L Auctioneer’s Titans of Galway in the opening Champions Trophy semi-final.
Titans, a team few gave any chance of reaching this stage, gained entry to the tournament by winning the Men’s National Shield in January. Despite only managing to finish fourth in Division One, they proved able to upset third placed Premier League side Bord Gais Neptune last weekend in Galway.
“Any team that turns over Neptune is a good team because that is no mean feat. To have scored 86 (in that game) shows that they can really put the ball in the basket,” said Demons guard Ciaran O’Sullivan.
The weekend as a whole presents a chance at redemption for a Demons team that came agonisingly close to capturing the league title. They conceded that honour to Killester but O’Sullivan feels like the players are in a good place mentally.
“We have put that behind us. We had a record of 16 and 2 and that is good enough in most leagues, we are just looking to finish the year strong now and maybe have another chance at Killester on the Sunday in the final,” he said.
For that to be a reality, Killester will themselves need to overcome a tough opponent in DCU Saints Friday night, a team they beat by just three earlier in the season.
“We are looking forward to [Friday night] and to taking on Killester, we know that when we are full strength and playing to our ability that we can compete with them,” said Saints head coach Dave Donnelly.
Saturday then sees the hosting of the League Cup semi-finals (for teams in the Basketball Ireland Premier League and Division One that failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy) along with the Women’s Division One and Premier League Shield finals before attention swings to the finals on Sunday.
Chief among those Sunday finals is the 2pm meeting of UL Huskies and Team Montenotte Hotel in the decider of the Women’s Premier League for 2014.
It will be the first time for the sides to meet on the court since their epic National Cup final in January.
On that occasion, Montenotte emerged victorious from an overtime battle for the ages, an indication of just how much more competitive the women’s game has been this season following several years of Huskies’ dominance.
“The fact that it has been more competitive and that we have been tested and lost more, it would definitely make winning that bit sweeter,” said Huskies guard Rachael Vanderwal, who aims for her and Huskies’ fourth straight league title Sunday.