It may not have been the game they had hoped for but it drew the crowds in their thousands to Neptune Stadium and while it eventually fizzled out, there was plenty of action and drama packed into three exciting quarters.
Neptune came out with all guns blazing with Phil Taylor, Ron Thompson and Michael McGinn firing them into a healthy early lead. Demons had to stage a comeback to remain in contention but at the end of the first quarter the margin was down to a point.
The recovery was masterminded by captain Shane Coughlan and Niall O’Reilly, who hit two big three pointers and would go on to influence the remainder of the game with the help of Shawn Atupem, Carlton Cuff, Niall O’Reilly, who was keeping tabs on Ron Thompson, and young Ciaran O’Sullivan who was brilliant throughout. It left Neptune 41-45 down at the end of the first half.
“We started well, we played well in the first half — Demons are a good team and we knew we would be up against it,” Neptune coach, Mark Scannell, said.
“We came out with all guns blazing, we gave it an awful lot and it took a lot out of us and to go in behind at half time knocked the stuffing out of us.
“Demons took total control of the ball from there on and while there was just three points in it at the end of he third quarter the writing was already on then wall.”
Neptune could not get the shots in and they were fatally wounded when Thompson was helped off with a leg injury. To make things worse, Ger Noonan was fouled out with 6:21 to play and Thompson limped back on to finish out the game in some pain.
Thompson, despite his problems, hit the game high of 30 points, Michael McGinn added 17 and Ger Noonan 14 but that was no match for the all round scoring power of Demons as coach Paul Kelleher ran the bench well.
Atupem was their top scorer on 20 , young Kyle Hosford hit 13 and Cuff 12 but the star was Coughlan, who turned the game around when they were under siege and hit the big shots when needed.
Demons coach, Paul Kelleher showered praise on his team.
“At the end of the day we just used our experience,” he said. “We made big shots, we put a lot of pressure on them and the third quarter was crucial but we put a lot of emphasis on consistency this year.
“Shane (Coughlan) is one of the best captains in the country, if not the best. He is a great leader, a guy who has been there and knows exactly how to rally young guys.”
UL Eagles will provide the opposition in the final after coming from nine points down to take SuperLeague champs, 11890 Killester, into overtime and clinch a 78-75 victory and a place in their place in the finals.
When Killester, who held both the league and cup titles this time last year, led 33-27 at the end of the first half they were poised for victory.
But Eagles remained calm even when Killester surged into the lead in the third quarter. Then, as the game ticked towards the buzzer, Matt Hall shot a huge three to bring UL back to within four — 49-45 — and put his side in a position to claw their way back and tie the game at 64 points apiece at full time.
UL maintained the momentum as the drama unfolded in overtime and, Robert Taylor, who might have clinched it in ordinary time, stepped up and landed the winner.
“This is what I get up for — the Cup,” Taylor insisted. “I have experience of the competition and I’m accustomed to the arena.”
Eagles coach, Mark Keenan, said. “I can’t believe it. I am so proud of them — that we hung together and we showed what we can do defensively and to come back and take I am thrilled.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Matt Hall said. “I won it 10 years ago and I’ve been hoping all week we can win it again this year. Today the effort was there, the togetherness was there which hasn’t been there all season.”