Neptune out to conquer Demons in opening league clash

IT MAY be the first game of the season, but when Neptune and Mardyke UCC Demons launch the new Nivea for Men SuperLeague at Neptune Stadium tonight (8pm), expect fireworks.

"It's a local derby and that sets it apart from every other game in the league," Neptune's Stephen McCarthy insisted, as the home side put the finishing touches to their preparations at the end of what has been a traumatic week for the club.

They had been training since the first week in August with new coach Cristiano Sias, but he parted company with the club and returned to Italy at the beginning of the week.

With little time to find a replacement they turned to club stalwart Noel Allen to take them into tonight's clash with their Cork city neighbours.

He coached the SuperLeague side for a season a few years ago.

Defending champions Mardyke UCC Demons have a superb record at Neptune Stadium, where they revel in the open spaces.

Neptune have two new Americans and an Australian in their line-up.

Jamal Ward comes via Jackson State University, Corey Evans is from Ohio and their new point guard is Adam Piszczuk, an Australian/Irish Bosman who hails from Queensland.

Ger Noonan returns from Gleneagle Lakers but their new signing from Longford Falcons, William Walsh, is on holidays and will miss the game.

Allen will turn to the likes of Stephen McCarthy, Gordon Fitzgerald and Marcus Walley for local knowledge, with a lot of attention focused on Michael McGinn, who earned a reputation last season despite injury.

McCarthy and Fitzgerald have been hinting at retirement in recent years, having won every honour including several SuperLeague titles and a couple of Cup medals.

However, McCarthy still has the hunger to continue.

"As the years go by, the next trophy is the one to win. You forget about what you have won," he said.

Pat Price built a powerful team at the Mardyke last season. They won the SuperLeague and were somewhat unlucky to have been drawn against Abrakebabra Tigers in the semi-final of the Cup.

This year they introduce three newcomers.

Michael Coles comes from Virginia Commonwealth University, an NCAA Division 1 college, James Whyte is a Canadian/British Bosman, who played Division II with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell, while Gary Johnson, a 6'2" guard, has had Division 1 experience with the University of Central Florida.

Colin O'Reilly has returned from Gleneagle Lakers to join his brother Niall at Demons, while Barry Kelleher returns from Mount Aloysius College for his first season in the SuperLeague.

The withdrawal of Waterford from the SuperLeague came as something of a shock to the system but nobody appreciates more the difficulties surrounding SuperLeague teams than Limerick coach Tom Hehir.

Last year he built a team from the bottom up without sponsorship but the fans turned out in their hundreds in support.

This season saw some of them depart, Liam Farrell to Switzerland, teak tough Matthew Hall to Spain and Chris Jeffries to South America.

"I should be employed by FÁS getting people into jobs," the Limerick man joked.

"But I just love bringing kids into the team and then watching them develop. I love the challenge."

The new signings will be paraded against Gleneagle Lakers at the Presentation College in Killarney tomorrow night, when Cormac O'Donoghue will have his first assignment as coach of the Killarney side.

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