Their reward? A repeat of last season’s cup semi-final with city rivals Bord Gáis Neptune.
In a game that Demons dominated from tip off they were hanging on in the fourth quarter when they were held scoreless for six minutes. Once again, when Demons needed inspiration, they looked to their captain Shane Coughlan who finished with a game-high 21 points.
Saints shocked the basketball fraternity two hours before deadline on Friday when they signed 6’10” Conor Grace and were hot favourites to advance but in a tight first quarter, with Keith Anderson and Kenton Walker to the fore, the sides were tied 19-19.
Demons were electrifying in the second quarter and outscored their opponents 30-14 with Ciarán O’Sullivan and Niall O’Reilly nailing late three pointers. Leading 49-33 at the break Demons looked in control. Walker was simply awesome under the boards as both Grace and 6’10” Martin Provizors were muted at the post.
In the closing minutes of the quarter, however, Saints began finding their range but the experienced O’Reilly hit a three on the buzzer as Demons looked home and hosed with commanding a 63-48 lead entering the crucial final quarter.
But the Glasnevin side threw the kitchen sink at the Cork lads and whittled the lead down to seven points with five minutes remaining.
“I cannot criticise my players because there was an accumulation of events that saw us struggle for the opening six minutes,” said Demons coach Paul Kelleher. “Fatigue had definitely set in and Saints were basically shooting the ball with precision from all angles of the court.
“Although they pushed us hard coming down the stretch there is little doubt it would have been a travesty of justice if we lost the game.”
The Cork side were also making it difficult as they failed to score for six minutes and could not convert eight consecutive free throws. But eventually Saints chose the wrong Demons player to foul as Ciarán O’Sullivan sealed a famous win with six consecutive free throws.
“It was disappointing, to say the least, but Demons played out of their skins for three quarters and in Shane Coughlan they have a player who relishes games of this magnitude,” Saints coach David Donnelly said.
For Demons it’s all focus on Neptune now and it is likely the sides will meet on Friday, January 11, at Neptune Stadium.
UCC DEMONS: S Coughlan, N O’Reilly, K Walker, S Duggan, C O’Sullivan, C Cuff, L O’Mahony, M O’Leary, D O’Sullivan.
DCU SAINTS: C Grace, E Donnelly, J Donnelly, M Provizors, K Anderson, P Glover, E Quill, J McGuirk, M Nagle.