The annual drama of the National Cup gets into full swing this weekend as the quarter-final round kicks off in the Men and Women’s SuperLeague Cup.
For many teams, the cup is a welcome escape from league struggles and all the teams competing this weekend, regardless of their season so far, lie just two wins from a cup final and live TV exposure.
One team glad for the distraction is UCC Demons, the early pacesetters in the BU, who have recently relinquished their grip on first place with back-to-back losses.
They will need to rediscover that form quickly as they travel to Dublin this weekend to play DCU Saints, a formidable team fresh off a dramatic overtime win against Dublin Inter.
Meanwhile, the only two teams to have beaten Demons this year meet in Limerick as UL Eagles take on Killester.
After a dismal start saw them plummet towards the bottom of the table, Killester have won their last two games and seem reinvigorated by the addition of Michael Bonaparte to the line-up.
Despite the disruption of losing head coach Darren O’Neill last week, Killester kept their focus against a Demons side looking to exact revenge for their first loss of the season a week earlier, winning by eight points.
A tough challenge awaits Killester this weekend however. As if a trip to play the defending champions in Limerick was not difficult enough, the Dubliners will be without star guard Eoin Chubb, whose knee problems leave him side-lined.
In Cork, Bord Gais Neptune are getting into the Christmas spirit for their quarter-final against Dublin Inter in Neptune Stadium and have been busy distributing free tickets to help people experience the magic of cup basketball in Ireland.
Inter will have the extra burden of entering the game with a new head coach after they parted ways with Audrius Jonusas by mutual agreement. Their Basketball Ireland Men’s Division One coach, Irmantas Griksas, has agreed to fill the role for the remainder of the year.
The final cup quarter final pits old rivals UCD Marian against Moycullen with the unique venue of Leitir Moir in the Galway Gaeltacht being used for the fixture.
In the Women’s SuperLeague Cup Singleton SuperValu Brunell travel to Limerick where they play UL Huskies in a rematch of their thrilling recent Nivea Women’s SuperLeague game that saw only seven points separate the teams.
Despite losing on that occasion, Brunell took a lot of heart from their performance against the defending cup and league champions and went on to beat DCU Mercy the following week.
Huskies head coach James Weldon will be hoping that home court advantage this time around will help his team through the contest.
Completing a busy week, Ulster Rockets welcome WIT Wildcats to Belfast on Saturday evening, just three days after a tough loss in Dublin mid-week to DCU Mercy.
The last time Wildcats and Rockets met in Belfast, Wildcats emerged victorious by six points.
This weekend’s cup game promises to be a different affair however, with American players for both teams (Terran Condrey for WIT and Megan Houlihan for Rockets) available now that were not then.
Elsewhere in the Women’s Cup, Team Montenotte Hotel Cork host Meteors and Liffey Celtics square off against DCU Mercy.