A number of intriguing sub-plots litter the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague schedule in week eight including a repeat of last year’s final, the first of back to back matchups and a cup game preview.
On Friday undefeated UCC Demons welcome Moycullen to the Mardyke Arena, a court that the Galway team have never secured a league victory on.
The men from Moycullen will be hoping to end that streak however as they enter the game on the back of two straight wins.
They can also take solace from the fact that they played the current league leaders tight in Galway, losing by only eight points in the season opener despite the loss of their star point guard Salva Camps early in the contest.
Demons will likely be without powerful perimeter scorer Carlton Cuff who is struggling with a shoulder injury. Cuffe has been immense this season but his loss may be mitigated somewhat by the re-emergence of Ciaran O’Sullivan as a scoring threat after he netted 28 points the team’s last outing.
Demons head coach, Paul Kelleher is wary of the challenge Moycullen pose but confident with the direction his team are headed in.
“A team that wins two overtime games in a row is team that has no fear and they will certainly be coming into the Mardyke Arena with a lot of confidence,” he said.
“We have been steadily progressing in recent weeks and our defence last weekend was certainly better.”
For UCD Marian and Killester, their Saturday evening meeting marks a significant opportunity to turn around recent losing trends as the two teams now play against each other in consecutive weekends.
Killester have lost their last three games with Marian in a four game funk. Two wins from the two encounters over separate weekends could be the catalyst for a renewed title challenge that would have been both teams’ ambition at the beginning of the season.
“We are two teams on bad losing runs and two games against the same team is a great opportunity to get back on track. We are looking forward to what that will bring and hopefully getting two wins,” said UCD Marian head coach Sasa Punosevac.
Killester fans will be relieved to hear that starting shooting guard, Robbie Clarke, who was ejected from last weekend’s game after a confrontation with UL Eagles guard Scottie Kinevane, has not been handed any ban and will be clear to play against Marian on Saturday.
The Bord Gais Neptune side that bested Marian last weekend will be aiming to leave the capital with a similar result this Saturday as they take on Dublin Inter at the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.
Neptune, after a deceptively slow start to the season, have rattled off four straight wins. Inter head coach Audrius Jonusas is aware that stopping them now will be a real challenge.
“The run and run and run and we will really have to try and stop their fastbreak if we are to win. It is an interesting game as we will play them in two weeks’ time in the cup,” he said.
Inter can take some confidence from an excellent display last week that saw them come within five points of UCC Demons. With a full squad this weekend, except for the injured Irmantas Griksas, they should prove a handful for a travelling Neptune team.
Meanwhile DCU Saints will try to bounce back from a tough overtime loss in Galway last weekend when they play UL Eagles on Sunday. The matchup is a repeat of the 2011/12 league final when Eagles edged out a resilient Saints team. Eagles head coach Mark Keenan is expecting a similarly tight affair this weekend.
“The two teams will line up pretty much similar to last year’s league final and I expect the same tough defensive game again. We must stay composed on offence and deal well with the Saints defensive pressure in order to win,” commented Keenan.
The Nivea Women’s SuperLeague has a packed weekend schedule of its own with every team bar Killester in action over Saturday and Sunday.
Fresh off a dramatic three point win on the road against WIT Wildcats in their last league outing, Meteors will enter their game against cross-city Dublin rivals DCU Mercy confident that they can cause an upset.
Mercy also enter the game off the back of a league win however after they crushed a good Killester team by almost 50 points. While still probably behind UL in terms of favourites for the title, Mercy’s early season form has firmly planted them in people’s minds as the most likely challengers to the throne.
Meanwhile WIT Wildcats will look to recover from that last loss to Meteors when they make the journey north to Ulster Rockets, who last weekend knocked Killester out of the cup.
UL Basketball Club aim to continue their impressive undefeated run when they take on Singleton SuperValu Brunell on Sunday afternoon in the legendary Parochial Hall in Cork.
“It is a massive challenge. We are hoping that home court and the development we’ve seen from the girls over the year will stand to us this time around,” remarked Brunell head coach Kieran O’Leary.
The last time these teams met, UL did to Brunell what they have done to nearly every team in the league for over 12 months, they won convincingly. The final score line on that day in early October left UL in front by 27 points.
“They are a top team but hopefully with the home venue and everything else it will be a different story this time around. We have to aim to keep them within 15 points or so and then take what we can then,” said O’Leary.
The one remaining game on the schedule in the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague pits Liffey Celtics against Team Montenotte Hotel Cork. Despite the game taking place in Celtics home gym of Leixlip Centre, it would be a major shock to see anything but a win for the women from Cork in that one.