Before the Christmas break, DCU Mercy defeated Glanmire in Cork, setting the alarms began ringing at the Cork club. Previous to that Montenotte had also went to Brunell in a second leg national cup clash and lost by a staggering 15 points on their home court. The old adage that some people create their own storms and get mad when it rains springs to mind, as coach Mark Scannell sought a way to stop the losing sequence.
A team meeting followed where some soul-searching was done and almost for the entire Christmas period the champions prepared with this game solely in their minds.
Not even a league win last week over UL Huskies had convinced the doubters that the champions were back on track.
Making sure his defence was equipped fully to nullify the various DCU threats was a priority and in the opening quarter the mindset of the Montenotte players looked up for the challenge, when leading by the minimum.
Lindsay Peat has given the Dublin club many years of loyal service and her unexpected return to the fold after her brief retirement at the end of last season didn’t go to plan.
It only took two minutes for Peat to be introduced to this game but understandably, her range wasn’t what it might have been. The player Peat replaced was an 18-year-old called Erica Kennedy Smith who was player of the match when the sides last met. Kennedy Smith, daughter of the former Burgerland ace Gerald Kennedy, didn’t return again to the action until the 26th minute.
The statistics of this player make interesting reading as in her 11 minutes of action she chipped in with eight points, in comparison to Peat who was in the paint for 19 and contributed a mere four points.
Coach Mark Ingle was asked after the game on why he chose to restrict the minutes of Kennedy Smith, and his reaction was interesting. “Erica is a young player with a bright future but she wasn’t buying into the defence I wanted her to play and in a game of this magnitude, I decided to go with some other options.”
By the end of the half, following five consecutive baskets, the Cork side commanded a healthy nine-point lead, 31-22.
On the restart the trend of the game changed little with some of the defending borderline, to say the least, with both teams going hell for leather to gain dominance.
Although Aine McKenna and Grainne Dwyer were firing on all cylinders in the offence court for Montenotte, Sarah Woods was doing likewise for DCU despite some stringent Jessica Scannell defending.
Trailing 47-40 entering the fourth quarter, DCU needed a run but such was Montenotte’s brilliant defence, DCU’s dreams were shattered for another season, the Cork side winning 71-65.
For coach Mark Scannell, it was an evening to savour.
“This win was down to the resilience of my players who had to endure a tough Christmas of training and the character shown tonight was simply incredible,” Scannell said.
DCU boss Mark Ingle preferred to vent his anger at the match officials.
“That game was taken out of my hands by poor refereeing, as we were bumped all evening and at one stage I felt as if we would have to be decapitated to get a foul.”
The earlier semi-final saw Killester gain a fortunate 68-67 win over a mighty unlucky UL Huskies side.
After commanding a 33-30 interval lead, some superb play from American Kelsey Harris (26 points) extended the Huskies lead to 11 entering the final quarter. Coming down the stretch an injury to the other UL American, Laura Hughes, proved crucial as a late basket and bonus from Killester’s Robin Murphy gave the Clontarf side a fortunate win.
Killester boss Mark Grennell was relieved at the final buzzer. “Got out of jail would be an understatement as UL must be wondering how they failed to win but we’ll take it as place in the national cup final is always a good feeling,” Grennell said.
The mood in the UL camp was sheer disappointment but coach David Keogh still found time to praise his troops.
“The last time we played Killester they deservedly defeated us by 25 points on their home court but this was a game we let behind us and sometimes sport can be cruel, even to the bravest.”