Double delight for coach Kelleher

Team Montenotte produced their best basketball of the season to stun UL Huskies in the Women’s Premier League final at the Neptune Stadium yesterday.

Double delight for coach Kelleher

The Limerick side went into this game as reigning league champions for the last three seasons but were ambushed by a Montenotte side that were simply awesome on the day.

For Montenotte coach Paul Kelleher this was a day to savour after leading his team to a league and cup double in his first season at the helm.

“I am thrilled for this group of players who have shown tremendous dedication all season and today I think we were worthy winners against a very good side,” he said.

“Our season changed completely before the Christmas period when we lost at home to Killester and from there we set out our strategy for the season.”

Both sides were intent on running the ball in the opening minutes, with Claire Rockall ensuring the Cork side led 6-4 in the second minute. However, Montenotte turned over the ball three consecutive times and UL surged into four-point lead.

Rachael Vanderwal was doing superbly for UL and when she nailed a three-pointer the Shannonsiders edged one clear.

Poor defending was posing Montenotte problems and with Vanderwal continuing to pose the Cork side many problems, UL led 27-21 at the end of the opening quarter.

A Niamh Dwyer three on the restart was a huge boost for Montenotte and when Gráinne Dwyer followed up with a basket the deficit was reduced to the minimum.

Rachael Clancy was another UL player hurting Montenotte with her deft moves to the hoop, but the Glanmire side continued to battle and two free-throws from Emilee Harmon edged them into a 33-31 lead in the 15th minute.

In the closing three minutes Montenotte increased their lead to six points but again consecutive turnovers came back to haunt them, with UL punishing them on both occasions.

Credit to both teams they produced champagne basketball at times but Montenotte managed to keep UL at bay and deserved to lead 41-37 at the interval.

Once again Montenotte showed plenty of energy on the restart with consecutive baskets but UL again battled back to hit the next five points, with Montenotte coach Kelleher deciding a time-out was needed in the 22nd minute.

But as the quarter matured, UL went into meltdown as their opponents found another gear that saw them regain an eight-point lead. It panicked UL and their game could not cope with the Dwyer sisters, Niamh and Gráinne, who scored at will.

It was a case of going through the motion for the Cork side coming down the stretch as despite the best efforts of UL this game was settled long before the final buzzer.

It was particularly painful for UL Huskies coach James Weldon, who announced after the game that he was stepping down after five years at the helm.

“There are lots of emotions running through my head but I am disappointed for my squad who have been an incredible team to coach,” Weldon said.

“Credit to Montenotte, they deserved their win as nothing basically dropped for us on the day. Sadly this was the final time I will be coaching at UL and many thanks to all concerned for the terrific moments we shared during my time here.”

Scorers for Team Montenotte: G Dwyer 27, N Dwyer 17, E Harmon 16.

Scorers for UL Huskies: R Clancy 25, L Maher 21, R Vaderwal 9.

TEAM MONTENOTTE: C Rockall, N Dwyer, G Dwyer, A O’Regan, O Dupuy, L Falvey, H Herlihy, K Walsh, A Dunlea, E Harmon, H McCarthy, H Lenihan, S Kenny.

UL HUSKIES: L Galvin, K Fahy, R Clancy, A Danaher, C Grant, M Brooks, N O’Donovan, R Vanderwal, F Lynch, L Maher, A McDermott.

Referees: R Dunne (Dublin), J Hegarty (Belfast), I Aim (Dublin).

MVP: Gráinne Dwyer.

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