Dublin-Kerry final fitting finale

THE COUNTIES produced a Croke Park football classic last season, and hoops fans hope the Dublin-Kerry rivalry will also provide a fitting climax to basketball’s blue riband weekend.

DART Killester are seeking to prise away Tralee Tigers’ Men’s SuperLeague National Cup crown on Sunday in a meeting of the 2007 Cup and League champions.

Adding form to the flavour is their respective top-spot positions in Conference A and Conference B.

“Its great to see the two top teams in the league reaching this stage of the competition,” beamed Killester coach Mark Keenan. “The Kerry-Dublin rivalry is mainly associated with GAA but it is also finding its way through basketball.”

Tralee booked their final place after a hard-fought 83-71 win over UCD/Marian but Keenan expects a huge improvement from the Kingdom giants this Sunday.

“I know they won’t have been particularly pleased with how they played against UCD/Marian but they showed they can still win matches without being at their best.”

On pinpointing any one Tigers player as a serious threat, Keenan said: “It’s possible, if we concentrate on stopping the likes of Donaghy (Kieran) or Quirke (Michael) then we will be taking our focus off their Americans so we’ll just have to go out and hopefully we’ll get a complete performance.”

DART’s latest win in Conference A came away to UUJ to extend their lead at the top of the table but Keenan believes his side still have more to offer.

“We made a sluggish start to the season but we are progressing well and things have seemed to accelerate since our comeback against UCC Demons in the opening stages of the league but I still think there is room for improvement. We got a tough win away to UUJ last weekend but all our focus now is on claiming the cup.”

Abrakebabra Tigers coach, Mark Bernsen isn’t dampening the expectation: “On paper it would appear to be a classic game in store and should be a good spectacle but it will be tight and there is nothing between the sides.”

Bernsen is delighted to welcome back star duo Kieran Donaghy and Michael Quirke for the final.

“They are as good as anyone in the league,” he added. “They are great athletes and superb basketball players so of course it’s a bonus to have them back in the squad.”

Preceding the men’s final on Sunday will be the women’s equivalent - the meeting of Team Montenotte Hotel Cork and Waterford Wildcats. The game is the third leg of a possible Glanmire hat-trick this weekend (see panel) but Michelle Fahy is wary of the so-called ‘underdog’ in the Women’s SuperLeague National Cup.

Waterford Wildcats made scant regard of the underdog tag when they managed to overcome favourites DCU Mercy in their thrilling semi-final clash on a scoreline of 62-60. “We weren’t actually going to stay for the second semi-final but the way that game panned out no-one was leaving,” said Fahy. “Waterford were excellent and to beat DCU the way they did shows they are going to be a serious threat on Sunday.”

Team Montenotte Hotel Cork were struggling in the league this time last year when they lifted the cup so Fahy is refusing to talk about their 12 game winning run heading into this year’s final. “It means nothing, we won the cup last year even though we had a miserable league campaign so form will count for nothing this weekend,” she added.

The 6’0 centre believes Wildcats’ experienced cup star Michelle Aspell will be a major thorn in their side on Sunday.

“Michelle knows what it takes to win a cup and she was superb against DCU on Sunday. She is one of the best ball handlers in the league and in their US player Katie McNamara they boast another huge talent.”

Aspell believes the side have plenty of experience to call on but that they are definitely the ‘underdog’.

“You would definitely call us an ‘underdog’ team,” says Aspell, “but there are a few of us that have been in this position before and it would be helpful to draw on those experiences.”

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