Changed times for UL Huskies. The Limerick side were the leading club in Irish basketball over the past decade but after failing to win any major honours last season the majority of the team have gone their separate ways.
Cathy Grant is the sole survivor from that era and will captain the side as coach Dave Keogh looks to cause an upset: “We do not want to look back as this is a new side but I feel we match up well to Killester.”
Coach Keogh needs his American duo of Kelsey Harris and Gillian Coombes to produce their best basketball of the season against the might of Killester.
When the sides clashed in October UL Huskies defeated Killester but since then the Clontarf side signed American pair Olivia Lee and Robin Murphy who have impressed. Murphy was taken to hospital last week when injuring her eye during a warm up but is expected to make a full recovery.
Olivia Lee and Aisling O’Sullivan also missed out last week but should start tonight. O’Sullivan said: “Cup basketball can be strange and with so much at stake we will give UL the respect they deserve and hopefully book our place in the final.”
The game of the day. DCU Mercy had a five point win when the side’s met in the league last month but Montenotte coach Mark Scannell isn’t perturbed by that result. Scannell said: “We have won a game apiece this season but this is the game both clubs want to win. The reality is we lost our best form in December and since we played DCU we have put a lot of hard work in on the training court and hopefully we will be repaid for that effort.”
Lindsay Peat returns for DCU as the former captain came out of retirement for this championship to the delight of coach Mark Ingle. “Lindsay is a great competitor and hopefully she will help us in this crucial game but no one could call this semi-final.” Peat, Caroline Stewart and Erica Kennedy Smith are the danger women for DCU but Team Montenotte aren’t short on talent. The Dwyer sisters — Gráinne and Niamh — along with Claire Rockall, Áine McKenna and Marie Breen are certain to give home fans plenty to cheer about.
Verdict: Team Montenotte.
Limerick Lakers coach Niall Campbell is confident his team will test championship favourites Belfast Star this afternoon. The Shannonsiders defeated a highly rated St Vincent’s side in the quarters with new signing Darren Dowling catching the eye. Star captain Conor Quinn is an excellent shooter and the Lakers must shut down his threat outside the perimeter to advance.
Verdict: Belfast Star.
Moycullen suffered a huge blow over Christmas when captain Patrick Lyons went to the America on a scholarship. Lyons was the engine of this side and his absence will give Neptune a huge chance of upsetting the odds. Neptune have defeated Cork rivals Blue Demons and Letterkenny Blaze and with talented squad players like Greg Fuchs, Adam Heaphy and James Beadle they have big hopes of reaching the decider.
The Parochial Hall will be packed when hosts Brunell host Leixlip’s Liffey Celtics as they bid to stay on track for a third consecutive title. All the Brunell starting five — Edel Thornton, Megan O’Leary, Amy Waters, Orla Connolly and Aoife Dineen — are part of their Premier league squad. This will be a tough test for Vinnie O’Keeffe’s Kildare outfit competing for the first time at this stage of the championship. Impossible to see past Brunell.
Last year Fr Mathew’s were defeated by Letterkenny Blaze in the semis but coach Ian Cotter is confident his side can go one better this time. Jack O’Mahony, Gary Pineda, Owen Connolly and Ryan Leonard are central figures for the Ballyphehane outfit. Moycullen have a physical post player in Joseph Tummon and a clinical shooter in Dylan Cunningham but they may have to settle for second best on this occasion.
Verdict: Fr Mathew’s.
St Vincent’s have talented players in Tariq Guebazi, Daniel Heaney and Martin Neary and they proved their worth when defeating a fancied Belfast Star 86-50 in the quarter-final. Kubs had a titanic quarter-final against Galway side Maree before eventually running out 69-66 winners. Shane McCann and Marcus Black were superb in that win and a repeat performance would see them go close today.
Verdict: St Vincent’s.
This is an historic day for St Anthony’s basketball club in Ballinlough as they compete in their first National Cup semi-final. Irish internationals Kelly Diggin and Kate Leneghan form the spine of their team and must play to form in their toughest challenge in the competition. DCU Mercy have key players in Saoirse Power Cassidy and Anna Brennan but the athleticism of Diggin may sway it in St Anthony’s direction.
Verdict: St Anthony’s.
East Cavan Eagles hope to make it a treble of wins over Cork sides when they face championship favourites Glanmire.
The northern side, backboned by Ciara Brady, Aoife Maguire and Leah Kelly Flynn, have defeated Brunell and Fr Mathew’s coming from 14 points behind at the break to defeat the latter.
Glanmire have a quality squad featuring Sarah Kenny, Holly Herlihy and Olivia Dupuy. The Cork side should remain on track to defend their title.
Moycullen have impressed in the league but the loss of Patrick Lyons at the point could hurt them. Former Titans player coach Paul Freeman is now playing with Moycullen and his battle at the post against Thomas Mitkus will be worth the admission fee alone. The former Ballincollig forward Ronan O’Sullivan is also part of the Moycullen side who will need to be at their best to see off the Titans challenge.
A repeat of last week’s league game that saw the honours go to Kilkenny in a high scoring encounter (100-90). Julian O’Keeffe, Paul Leigh and American Puff Summers are the big danger men for Kilkenny.
Home support and the impact of the returning Ryan Murphy and Dan Griffin could swing this Demons’ way.
Verdict: Blue Demons.
Holders Portlaoise Panthers face a tough challenge from NUIG Mystics. The Midlanders were pushed all the way by Fr Mathew’s in the quarter-final before a tremendous fourth quarter saw them run out 77-59 winners. NUIG showed tremendous resilience to defeat an experienced Killester 57-53 last time out. The O’Sullivan sisters Catherine and Maeve along with Sinead Nihill should fire the Panthers to the final.
Verdict: Portlaoise Panthers.
This Dublin derby will be competitive from tip off with both sides fancying their chances of victory. Dymanos were impressive in their 75-67 quarter-final win over Tralee Imperials. Jennifer Morabito, Allison Keech and captain Georgina McKenna are all prolific shooters. Meteors eased past Ballincollig (66-34) in their quarter-final with Aoife Whelan and Lorenzo Cafala leading by example.
Verdict: Oblate Dynamos.
Another clash of Cork and Dublin rivals with Glanmire facing the might of DCU Mercy. The Cork side have the nucleus of their U18 team involved and coach Mark Scannell will hoping Sarah Kenny and Olivia Dupuy can impress. DCU will be led by the talented Erica Kennedy Smith with the Black sisters, Peggy and Kate, also key players. Kennedy Smith’s display is key to deciding the outcome.
- John Coughlan