Unbeaten Liffey Celtics and Brunell face off in decider

Áine O’Connor, Courtyard Liffey Celtics, tips the ball away from Bronagh Power Cassidy, DCU Mercy, during the Hula Hoops Women’s National Cup semi-final at the Mardyke Arena.Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A new name will adorn the Women’s National Cup in a fortnight after Liffey Celtic powered past champions DCU Mercy to join first-time finalists Brunell in the blue riband on January 27.

Celtics, 9-0 in the Superleague this season, continued their perfect campaign by unseating defending champions DCU Mercy 71-51 in Saturday’s second semi-final at the Mardyke Arena. It presents a readymade opportunity to atone for the disappointment of their final defeat two years ago when they suffered a 13-point reverse to Glanmire. Head coach Mark Byrne believes that disappointment has proved a turning point for the Leixlip-based outfit.

“Since that final in 2017, the girls have really grown in composure and stature. Holding DCU Mercy to 51 points says a lot about our defence. DCU are great at running the floor but I don’t think they got many fast breaks either.”

In October, Liffey Celtics came to Cork and saw off Brunell 62-46 in the Superleague, but Byrne anticipates a different challenge from the Cork side in the final. “Some might see their win Friday night as a bit of an upset, but we saw how tough they were when we played them earlier in the season. Brunell will be revelling in the fact that it’s their first final. It will be tough, but I’d rather have a tough final than nothing,” Byrne added.

Allie LeClaire and Briana Green were the standouts for the Kildare side, with the damage done in the second quarter, with Green and LeClaire finishing the half on 14 and 12 points respectively. Celtics led 41-26 at the half.

Added Celtics’ Aine O’Connor: “We were undefeated coming into this but there’s a lot of pressure when it’s Cup and on this game so now we’re really looking forward to Brunell in the final. Last year we were very disappointed – we lost to DCU in the first round in a close game.

Shakena Richardson, Sarah Woods and Samantha Hyslip drove DCU Mercy’s comeback effort in Q3 but they still trailed 63-41 going into the last.

“We kept waiting forthe comeback” admitted Mark Byrne. Everyone got on the scoresheet, so our offence flowed.”

Liffey Celtics top scorers: Allie LeClaire 25, Briana Green 18, Sorcha Tiernan 8

DCU Mercy top scorers: Samantha Hyslip 13, Shakena Richardson 12, Sarah Woods 9.

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