A huge weekend beckons in Irish basketball as the women's and men's National Cup finals take centre stage at the National Basketball Arena.
First up of the two headline fixtures on Saturday, C&S Neptune and Garvey's Warriors Tralee will battle it out in the Pat Duffy Men's National Cup Final, with a 6pm start time.
Then on Sunday, it's the Paudie O'Connor National Cup Final between The Address UCC Glanmire v DCU Mercy which starts at 5.20pm.
Speaking ahead of the men's final, Garvey's Tralee Warriors head coach John Dowling said his team "need to be at our best" if they are to overcome C&S Neptune.
The Kerry club have twice experienced semi-final heartache in recent years, but this year got past DBS Éanna 79-70.
Their route to the Pat Duffy Cup final also saw them inflict Tradehouse Central Ballincollig’s only defeat of the season in the first round, following that up with a quarter-final win over Moycullen, before getting past DBS Éanna.
"It’s like Kerry getting to the All-Ireland final, it’s the same," said Dowling of the importance of Garvey's Tralee Warriors getting back to the Cup final.
"It doesn’t really matter what sport is played down here, that’s almost the expectation, whatever way people want to look at it there’s always high expectations. It was very important for us, because we want to win everything whether it is the Champions Trophy, the league, the Cup. We want to be in contention for everything.
"Saturday night at the National Basketball Arena for Cup final day is where everyone wants to be. The lads are excited to take to the court, but we are under no illusions as to the task ahead of us. Neptune have assembled a talented group and Colin (O’Reilly) has them playing their brand of basketball. We will need to be at our best and put together a massive team performance if we are to be successful on Saturday night."
O'Reilly's C&S Neptune received a first-round bye at the start of their route to the decider, before they won at Killester and defeated NUIG Maree 103-92 in the semi-finals.
They last won the Cup in 2013 and player-coach O’Reilly says there is major anticipation around the Cork club ahead of Saturday’s game.
"Really excited going into the weekend. There has been a nice buzz within the camp and players are really enjoying their basketball," he said.
"Cup finals bring their own challenges, however, we have stuck to our process and concentrated on training session ahead of us each night. It’s an achievement to get to this stage and our goal is to perform on the night and see where it takes us."
Sunday's women's senior final sees two old rivals, The Address UCC Glanmire and DCU Mercy, come face-to-face in the Paudie O’Connor Cup final of the InsureMyHouse.ie National Cup.
When the sides met in November in the Super League, it was The Address UCC Glanmire who edged it narrowly by an 80-77 margin at the Mardyke Arena.
DCU Mercy head coach Mark Ingle said: "We are looking forward to renewing our long rivalry with Glanmire in the National Cup final. Glanmire have been the top team in the league so far this season. We had a very close game against them in Cork on their home court, so we are excited to be playing them on a neutral court in the National Basketball Arena. It should be a great game."
DCU Mercy denied Glanmire the five-in-a-row the last time they met in a Paudie O’Connor Cup final, winning by the slimmest of margins, 72-71, in 2018.
The Address UCC Glanmire head coach Mark Scannell says it has been "too long" since they were last in the Cup final and is happy with how his team are shaping up ahead of Sunday’s game.
"It’s been a busy couple of weeks, but I feel playing games has been great preparation for the Cup final," he said. "It’s very important now that we enjoy it, but focus on playing the game and not let the occasion get in the way of playing our best basketball.
"We have a nice rhythm about our play right now, different players stepping up at different times. The balance in the team is good and hopefully that continues into Sunday, but we are under no illusions it will be a difficult game against a very well organised team.
"Hopefully we are ready for the challenge and have prepared properly. It’s great to be back in the final. It’s been too long."