No doubt the biggest attendance will be at the Mardyke Arena tomorrow where defending champions C&S UCC Demons will host arch-rivals Killester.
Demons produced a magnificent performance in the first leg to command a 25-point lead but player coach Colin O’Reilly is urging his players not to be complacent.
O’Reilly said: “The bottom line is we are at half time and have a nice cushion but we still have 40 minutes of basketball to play to ensure our semi-final berth is booked.”
Killester have struggled this season without point guard Isaac Westbrooks, who moved to Swords Thunder, while the injured Kieran O’Brien looks likely to miss the entire season.
It has been a different scenario for Demons, who are the only Premier side unbeaten in this campaign.
The Cork side will most likely remember last season when they came within a second of being eliminated from the cup.
Leading by 32 points from their first leg at the Mardyke Arena, Demons had to rely on a Shane Coughlan buzzer-beater to get through the second leg against UCD Marian.
Having experienced that trauma O’Reilly believes that will be a sharp reminder going into this game.
O’Reilly added: “It’s never over until the fat lady sings and Killester will get the same respect from us as they are capable of producing a big performance.”
Belfast Star are another team in a rich vein of form and they will need to at their best when they visit the inform Travelodge Swords Thunder.
The Dublin side have won consecutive close games against UCD Marian and DCU Saints and coach Dave Baker will be hoping his side can do the business on this occasion.
Baker said: “At the moment we are plagued with injuries but hopefully we will have a fully fit squad for Belfast Star, who are very much on a high from their recent results.”
Swords’ biggest worry is ace point guard Isaac Westbrooks, who missed last weeks win against DCU Saints with a finger injury.
UCD Marian travel to Cork to play BFG Neptune with an 18-point first leg lead but also have a major injury worry, with American Preston Ross unlikely to play, having being sidelined for the past three weeks.
It transpired yesterday that the Dublin club are ready to unleash 6’4” forward/guard Daniel Belgrave, the former Worcester Wolves star, for this crucial clash.
For UCD Marian captain Conor Meany this will be the acid test for his team.
“Preston Ross is a doubt but as team we are training hard for what we envisage will be a very difficult assignment,” Meany said.
Good news for BFG Neptune is that American Michael Bonaparte is fit to play following his four-week absence with an ankle injury.
The Cork side were shellshocked in Belfast to lose an 18-point lead to Belfast Star, but player coach Ger Noonan is confident his side can win this game.
“Every club wants to be part of the National Cup and I could see with the attitude of my players at training this week they are prepared to battle for survival.”
UL Eagles travel to play Dublin Inter at Mountview, with coach Paul Kelleher hoping his side can rediscover the winning touch.
“Momentum is crucial in all sports and although we battled hard and lost to C&S UCC Demons, I took positives from the game and a similar performance may suffice against Dublin Inter,” Kelleher said.
Templeogue are the most improved team in the Premier League and they will fancied to book a second round clash when they host DCU Saints.
In the Women’s National Cup the big game of the weekend will see Killester hosting Liffey Celtics with the teams level at 63 points each from the first leg.
The action begins this evening with a Cork derby between Team Montenotte and Singletons Supervalu Brunell clashing at Upper Glanmire Sports Centre. Glanmire command a 25-point lead from the first leg and barring a minor miracle their semi-final place should be assured.
But Glanmire’s Marie Breen says their respect their rivals too much for that. “Every cup round throws up a crazy result and we just need to be sure it’s not us. They’re a confidence team and their shooters will go on a run. Whether they’ll go on a run of 20 points is the question.”
If you think it’s hard for teams at Premier League level to win a cup, consider this. It takes four games to win the Men’s or Women’s National Cup. In the U18 Cups, it takes four games just to reach the quarter finals. Home advantage is earned not drawn.
East Cavan Eagles pulled off the shock of the Women’s Under 18 tournament in knocking out beaten finalists Brunell in the qualifier. They conceded home advantage but Cork’s Fr. Matthews will have to be wary of their Ulster opponents tomorrow in Chriost Rí if they want to keep their unbeaten record intact.
St. Anthony’s of Ballinlough are one of three Cork clubs who can fill out the final four spots and they take on Templeogue in their quarter-final tonight in Ballinlough.
Templeogue only lost home advantage to Glanmire, who not only are unbeaten to date but have also seen a number of their players promoted to the Irish squad announced in recent weeks. Glanmire themselves take on Liffey Celtics.