UL were pushed to the limit by a determined Montenotte Hotel Cork, all fired up by the decision to allow Rachel Clancy to play , having just returned from playing professionally in Spain.
Clancy, who also enjoyed a spell in the United States, landed three from four three-point attempts and ended up with 14 points after being sent on by UL coach James Weldon six minutes into the game. In that spell Montenotte had succeeded in tying up the UL captain, Rachael Vanderval, who is on the British squad for this year’s Olympic Games.
UL led 17-15 at the end of the first quarter, 35-31 at half-time and were 42-36 ahead six minutes into the third before Miriam Liston tied the game at 43 points apiece with a big three. Rachel Clancy landed another three, Aoife McDermott added two points and UL were back in front at the end of the third quarter.
“They put it up to us,” UL coach Weldon admitted. “But then you can’t expect to come down to Cork and face a great team like Montenotte who were not going to lie down.
“Rachel Clancy came in and hit some huge shots in the third (quarter) which is a credit to her because there was a lot of pressure coming in for her first game. She started cold but, fair play to her, she came and she hit the big shots for us when they closed Rachel Vanderwal down a small bit.
“We have good strength and depth but it’s all about the players themselves buying into the whole team philosophy. We have Cian O’Neill working on the fitness side — he was with the Tipperary hurlers — and you could see in the fourth quarter our fitness was really good.”
“We gave it a right rattle and I am proud of them,” Montenotte coach, Cormac O’Donoghue, said.
“You are looking at a team where you have Rachel Vanderwal going to the Olympic Games, you have Michelle Fahy who is probably the best post player ever in this country and on top of that you have Rachel Clancy, just back in the country after playing professionally in Spain.
“For threequarters of that game we were right in there with a really good chance. When you are playing at that level against a team of the quality of UL it’s a small little things you need to go right but we did not get the lucky break. Fair play to them. I know people are questioning the validity of the transfer of Rachel Clancy but good luck to Limerick. They are in the Cup final where they want to be and where we would like to be.”
DCU Mercy were all over Killester. They won the first quarter 16-9, led 34-15 at half time and were 51-24 ahead going into the final quarter. Teak-tough Peat Lindsay, who spent more that 32 minutes on court, ended up with the game high of 17 points to highlight what was an all-round contribution to an emphatic victory while Suzanne Maguire proved that she, too, has retained all her flair with a 16 point total that included three big threes from well outside the perimeter.
“It was impressive enough,” coach Mark Ingle said.
“Last year we got a lot of criticism in the semi-final but I’ve said before that these girls know how to win. We know the task that’s facing us (in the final). UL have been the best team in the league all season and they proved it again yesterday. We are going to go away now and get ready for UL.
“For the last couple of years we have focused on the cup. We are looking forward now to going for three in-a-row ”