Last season’s beaten finalists UL Eagles open the new Nivea for Men’s SuperLeague season with a tricky clash away to UCD/Marian, while Bord Gais Neptune entertain Belfast Star.
Last year’s champions UCC Demons welcome an Ulster Elks side that are determined to make up for the woe of missing out on last season’s play-off stages.
11890 Killester secured a clean sweep of trophies last season (National Cup, Northern Conference, Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague) but their displays against the might of Pittsburgh University and Cheshire Jets during the summer showed enough to suggest there would be no let up this season.
‘I think every team will be a challenge for us as everyone will raise their game against the champions,’ said 11890 Killester head coach Mark Keenan.
‘Two of our losses last season were against teams that finished well down the table, so anyone can beat anyone on a given night. I expect to see Limerick at the top again.
‘They have strengthened their squad with new signings in the off season.’
Their opponents on Sunday, Moycullen, impressed in their debut season and the signing of Mason Ambler is evidence of their determination to maintain that progress.
Ambler joins Moycullen with serious pedigree, having been named on the first team all conference of the Carolina Conference after averaging 17.7 points and 8.4 rebounds per game for Coker College.
‘You want to play the best teams first, I’ve always believed that and Sunday will be a great opportunity to see where we really are,’ said Moycullen head coach Enda Byrt.
‘We have all our Irish players back from last year and adding Mason Ambler will bring a whole other dimension to our play this season.’
UL Eagles will pose a serious threat to Killester’s crown and boast an impressive new coach in the shape of Mark Bernsen.
In 2008, the US coach led the Tralee Tigers, including a super show from Kieran Donaghy and Michael Quirke in the final, to the championship.
He now takes over a UL Eagles side brimming with confidence ahead of their trip to UCD after claiming the recent Stuart Robbins Memorial Tournament with victory over 11890 Killester.
‘I am delighted to be back in this country,’ said Bernsen.
‘We are all working hard, sometimes not successfully, but even at that there is a tremendous effort being put in.
‘As we prepare for our game against UCD Marian this weekend our work and energy centres on the things we can control, things both on offence and defence that are within our grasp to understand and accomplish.’
UCD/Marian may have missed out on the play-offs last term but the acquisition of James Crowder is a sign that a place in the knockout stages is the least of their ambitions.
‘It’s the first time I have played out of my country and Ireland is an excellent place to start,’ said Crowder.
‘Ireland has proved a great place for the Americans to ply the trade and I can’t wait to get started for UCD this weekend.’
‘The experience of last season will be of great help to everyone and with all our category 2 players returning we have a very settled squad,’ said UCD Marian Head Coach Fran Ryan.
‘I have no doubt we will be a better team than last season and the level of preparation and commitment by the players has been very impressive in pre season.’
Bord Gais Neptune should also be in the shake-up for honours this season after making an impact last term under the guidance of Pat Price.
This weekend they open against last season’s surprise package Belfast Star.
Neptune’s summer signings include 6’7’ U.S. power forward Robinson Louisme and former Shamrock Hoops standout Phil Taylor.
‘Killester and UL Eagles are both even better than they were last season, and that doesn’t bode well for those who were doing the chasing last season,’ said Neptune head coach Pat Price.
‘Killester’s return of Aaron and Isaac Westbrooks as well as Kieran O’Brien in the post is a massive boost to the existing talent and experience that Mark Keenan has at his disposal.’
Star reached the play-offs last season after finishing second in the Northern Conference but a lot will depend this weekend on whether they can secure the signature of their US player ahead of their trip to the Neptune Stadium.
A new look UCC Demons featuring former Irish underage coach Paul Kelleher and Marcus Van from Central Michigan University will be looking for an improvement on last season’s campaign as they look forward to facing Ulster Elks.
‘We have had a very productive pre-season and every player has played a lot of minutes and we are reasonably sharp,’ said Kelleher.
‘We will prepare for the game as best we can this week and there is a lot of excitement about our opening game and we will look forward to next Sunday.’
Ulster Elks have attracted Ciaran McEvilly (Dublin) and Ben De La Cruz (USA) to their squad in the hope of improving on last year's performances.
De La Cruz attended Flagler University (NCAA D2) in his native Florida and was named to the All Region team in his senior year.
Nivea for Men’s SuperLeague fixtures:
Saturday, 2 October
UCD Marian v UL Eagles, UCD Sports Centre, 19:00
Bord Gais Neptune v Belfast Star, Neptune Stadium, 19:00
Nivea for Men’s SuperLeague fixtures:
Sunday, 3 October
Moycullen v Killester, Kingfisher Club NUIG, 15:00
UCC Demons v Ulster Elks, Mardyke Arena, 15:15