It was the stuff dreams are made of in Tralee this evening as, after a rollercoaster of a ride through the Men’s Super League 2018/19 season, Garvey’s Tralee Warriors were finally crowned champions at their home court.
The Kerry men came through one of the toughest finishing runs to a season ever, meeting Templeogue two weeks ago at home, going on to a double header weekend against Neptune and Moycullen, before finishing with an incredible double header weekend against UCD Marian this weekend – and finally, their efforts were rewarded as they ran out 88-73 point winners over the Dubliners tonight.
There were heroes across the court for the Kerry men – Kieran Donaghy led the charge from the front, dropping threes at crucial stages of the game and fighting hard on every defence.
Keith Jumper, Fergal O’Sullivan and young star and newly crowned local hero, Rapolas Buivydas were also some of the stand out players in a team full of stand out players. When one man was down, the next stepped up, and they did so in style this evening.
Coming off the back of a tough and hard-fought overtime battle against UCD In Dublin last night, Tralee knew they had it all ahead of them today but again, the Warriors heart shone through and a massive first half performance, that saw them drive into a 55-35 point half time lead, laid the foundations of what was to come.
Reigning champions UCD were not lying down easily though and a late surge led by the pacey Elijah Mays saw them close the gap as the clock ticked down, but the work had already been done and as the fourth quarter began to tick down, celebrations were in full swing for the capacity crowd.
“Last night was the winning of it really,” admitted Kieran Donaghy afterwards. “We finished with five Tralee lads on the floor last night with other lads in foul trouble and that win, that overtime win, was the winning of it. We knew we had the sixth man in the crowd down here tonight. This is what we wanted when we started this. We wanted something the whole town could get behind and it’s been a long road, a tough journey of ups and downs, but we got here.”
Fergal O’Sullivan added: “This is everything – everything to us. You see how many kids are here. This is everything for the town and everything for the development of the next generation.
An emotional head coach, Pat Price added: “If you don’t dream it won’t happen – and we have been dreaming about this moment all season. This kind of thing doesn’t happen by accident. I’m delighted for them they’ve earned it and that’s how it should happen – you should earn it. UCD were defending champions and they weren’t going to roll over, but I’m just so happy and proud of the lads.”