Derby duo aim to shoot the lights out

It’s a 46-year intense rivalry that has made UCC Demons and Bord Gais Neptune one of the most spectacular games on the Irish basketball calendar.

Tonight at the Mardyke Arena (8pm) more than 2,000 fans will gather for another chapter in this remarkable fight for bragging rights in Cork.

In the last three years UCC Demons have defeated their near neighbours seven times with the Blackpool side having to settle for two wins.

In this campaign Demons defeated Neptune when the sides last clashed back in October but coach Mark Scannell believes the trend must change quickly.

“This is more than a derby game, this is about Neptune getting back in the SuperLeague race as Demons and UL Eagles are four points ahead of us,” Scannell said.

“At the moment my team does not fear any side in the league as our results in recent months prove we are more than a handful for the majority of teams.”

Losing can put a lot of pressure on any coach but Scannell does not worry about critics as, in his own words, coaching and playing at this level is very demanding.

“I have my own ambitions and I think I have proved over the years that I can coach but criticism and flak is part of the job that you must accept when you are coaching either Neptune or Demons,” added Scannell.

The mood in the Demons camp is upbeat as coach Paul Kelleher is determined that his side’s title challenge remains on track.

“I stated at the start of the season that Neptune are a very tough side, particularly their starting five, and my opinion has not changed,” Kelleher said.

“Neptune have had some tremendous results and they will know a win will put them right back in the mix.”

Kelleher also believes that this game will have no bearing on the forthcoming national cup semi-final due to take place at the Neptune Stadium on January 11.

“Every derby is different and tonight will be about who wants it more, and I am hoping we show the same attitude as did in this fixture last season when we played some magnificent basketball.”

In games of this magnitude, American players usually cancel each other out but it’s the contribution of the Irish players that usually settle the contest.

Demons have two experienced stalwarts in captain Shane Coughlan and Niall O’Reilly but Neptune can call upon Ger Noonan and Michael McGinn. The one negative for Demons is their lack of inches, with the exception of 6’ 8’’ American Kenton Walker who will be up against the athletic Darren Townes.

The Sunday’s Well outfit will need big games from Ciaran O’Sullivan and Carlton Cuff, with Gary Walsh’s pinpoint shooting outside the perimeter likely to pose Demons problems if he does not get the necessary attention.

UL Eagles were shocked before the Christmas break by DCU Saints and will be anxious to get back to winning ways when they travel to Clontarf tomorrow for a clash with Killester.

The Dublin side have had a very poor season by their standard but new American signing Michael Bonaparte could pose the Shannonsiders problems.

UL coach Mark Keenan was disappointed with his team’s performance against DCU Saints and will have his troops primed up for this game against the club that axed him after leading them to the 2010 SuperLeague title.

UCD Marian parted ways with coach Sasa Punosevac over the Christmas period and although his replacement has yet to be been named, they are sure to test the mettle of DCU Saints at the UCD Sports complex.

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