There is little sign of any Christmas relaxation in the world of Irish basketball with another weekend packed full of Nivea SuperLeague games ahead.
This weekend sees the two newest teams in the Men’s SuperLeague as Dublin Inter and Moycullen meet for the first time while league finalists a season ago, DCU Saints and UL Eagles do battle.
There are also games for Killester and UCC Demons who host Bord Gais Neptune and UCD Marian respectively.
The outstanding game from the weekend’s fixtures is in the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague as undefeated UL Huskies put their record on the line away from home against a one-loss DCU Mercy outfit brimming with confidence.
Meanwhile WIT Wildcats face Singleton SuperValu Brunell while Killester play Team Montenotte Hotel Cork and Liffey Celtics square off against Meteors.
Friday night’s game pits two teams fresh off narrow cup losses as Moycullen travel to the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght to play Dublin Inter.
"The cup is over and we have two very important games before Christmas against Dublin Inter," said Moycullen head coach Salva Camps.
"Every team has their own goals and for us, finishing fourth in the league would be a massive achievement. Two games from two against Inter might be the difference between doing that and not come March."
Saturday’s matchup between DCU Saints and UL Eagles sees the two league finalists from a season ago meeting. A highlight of the game is without doubt the chance to witness both teams’ 6’11” inside powerhouses, Conor Grace and Jason Killeen mark one another.
Saints put pen to paper with Grace just last week and will be hoping he settles in quickly. Eagles head coach Mark Keenan is well aware of the difference a key signing like Grace can make for a team.
“DCU Saints with Conor Grace now in their ranks will be very tough opposition. We will need another good team performance if we are to maintain our position at the top of the league table - I am delighted with quarter final cup win over Killester and now we must quickly refocus,” said Keenan.
Keenan’s old club, Killester will be aiming to get their struggling season back on track with a home tie against a surging Bord Gais Neptune team.
Following three straight losses to begin their 2012/13 campaign, Neptune have gone on to win seven out of their last eight games including a SuperLeague Cup quarter-final last weekend.
While thoughts may be on their mouth-watering cup semi-final game against UCC Demons in a month’s time in Neptune Stadium, Neptune will have to be wary of losing a game this weekend that could end any realistic challenge for league honours before Christmas.
Killester have a new coach in Tom Doherty as well as a new American player in Michael Bonaparte and despite being knocked out of the cup last weekend are optimistic about turning their season around.
“Obviously we were disappointed to lose in the cup but it was always going to be a tough game down in Limerick against Eagles,” said team manager Rachel O’Connell.
“Everyone is actually very positive and we are just looking forward to the game this weekend. Eoin Chubb and Mariano Gomez are out injured but other than that we have a full squad.”
Sunday’s Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague game has UCD Marian travelling down to the Mardyke Arena in Cork to face UCC Demons. An enviable task in itself as Demons have yet to lose at home this season, Marian will be without the services of several key players.
“We are not sure what team is going to Cork. I know that Cathal Finn and Conor James can’t play and we are still waiting on Liam Conroy to see if he is available,” reported UCD head coach Sasa Punosevac.
UCC Demons have injury worries of their own entering the game as starting guard Shane Duggan, who head coach Paul Kelleher described as “our most consistent performer all year”, learned that he will be in a cast for five weeks after dislocating his knee.
In the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague, one of the most highly anticipated games of the season so far pits undefeated UL Huskies against one-loss and second placed DCU Mercy in Dublin.
“All the pressure is on UL to maintain their unbeaten streak. We are relishing the challenge,” said an optimistic Mercy head coach Mark Ingle.
“You can over prepare for a big game like this. I will be focusing our team on the mental side of things. We are at home and we probably have a stronger starting five than we did last year.”
UL head coach James Weldon is well aware of the challenge Mercy pose in the DCU Sports Complex.
“It’s always a tough game. They have a great coach in Mark and have added Megan Hoffman after losing one or two players but it is still the same nucleus of their team that has had a lot of success over recent years.”
“I saw them play in Cork earlier this year and know a decent bit about how they play. Everyone here is just raring to go, it is definitely one of those fixtures you look at and circle.”
Elsewhere in the Nivea Women’s SuperLeague, WIT Wildcats host Singleton SuperValu Brunell while Killester and Liffey Celtics face Team Montenotte Hotel Cork and Meteors respectively.