MARY McGUIRE: Kevin Lacey and Griffith Swords Thunder try again

January 30, 2016 was both a low point, and a starting point, for Kevin Lacey and Griffith Swords Thunder.

MARY McGUIRE: Kevin Lacey and Griffith Swords Thunder try again

Lacey and company were locked in a titanic Hula Hoops Cup final with Templeogue in Tallaght’s National Arena.

In the dying seconds of the epic, a Thunder three-point effort missed its target and moments later the final buzzer sounded.

Templeogue players and supporters were ecstatic while their opponents slumped to the floor in dejection. The margin of victory? Three points.

Just shy of 12 months later and Lacey and Thunder are on the campaign trail again with a semi-final against SSE Airtricity Moycullen in Neptune Stadium tomorrow.

Templeogue have already been accounted for but Lacey admits it has done little to dampen the pain of last year’s final defeat.

He said: “The disappointment from last year is still there. We left that one behind. It was such a close game, and we have that bitter taste in our mouths — we know we could have had it. We’re dying to prove that we’re not just a fluky team.

“We know we haven’t won anything and we don’t want to be that team that comes in, gets to the finals but can never get over that last hurdle. Spirits are high, especially coming off the win against Templeogue, but there’s still two more steps before anyone can be called champions.

"People call us favourites but we see ourselves as underdogs. The day someone crowns us champions is when we’ll consider ourselves favourites. Moycullen cannot be underestimated. They are a solid team, and have guys who have played together for many years. It’s going to be a tough game.”

Moycullen’s progression to the last four is a starkly different story. While this is the club’s first cup semi-final at this level, they boast a team with a solid core and vast experience at underage level. This year, they dug deep in the opening rounds against Belfast Star to come back from a third quarter deficit and win, and captain Dylan Cunningham is thrilled to be here.

“Outside of the team itself, there are probably 12 or 14 people in the country who believe we can win this game,” he said. “Those 12 or 14 people will be on the sideline with us on Saturday and hopefully we will perform. It is huge for the club to have come this far.

"We’ve grown up playing basketball together, and contesting and winning cups together, so we are not daunted by this weekend. We may be just a small club at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere in the west, but we’ve proven ourselves before and we’re quietly confident.”

In the other big clash of the weekend, it’s an all-Dublin affair as Pyrobel Killester and UCD Marian, both of whom are no strangers to big cup days, face off. “We’re looking forward to getting back to the Cup,” admitted Killester star, Cian Nihill.

“We had a tough loss against Swords in the League last weekend, and we were beaten by UCD at the end of the year there, so we have two wrongs to right. The worry is that we haven’t managed to pull it out for all four quarters.

"We can’t just play well for 35 minutes as UCD have enough firepower to come back and take you so we have to be there for the full 40 minutes. We know we can play and beat the best, now we just have to go out and perform.”

UCD’s Barry Drumm is relishing a cup weekend. “It’s unbelievable to be back in the semi-final,” he enthused. “These kind of games are the reason that you play — getting to go down to Cork for the semi- final and hoping to get to the final in the Arena, that’s the pinnacle of playing really.

"We’ve been down this road before. We were there at the final two years ago and got well beaten by Demons so it would be great to get back there and get another crack at it.”

Hula Hoops National Cup schedule

Today

Hula Hoops President’s Cup semi-final

Kestrels v BFG Neptune, Neptune Stadium, 6.30pm.

Hula Hoops Women’s National Cup semi-final

Ambassador UCC Glanmire v Singleton SuperValu Brunell, Neptune Stadium, 8.30pm.

Tomorrow

Hula Hoops U18 Men’s Cup semi-final

BFG Neptune v Liffey Celtics, Neptune Stadium, 10am

Templeogue V KUBS, Neptune Stadium, 12pm.

Hula Hoops U18 Women’s Cup semi-finals

DCU Mercy v Portlaoise Panthers, Parochial Hall, 10am

Ambassador UCC Glanmire v Courtyard Liffey Celtics, Parochial Hall, 12pm.

Hula Hoops President’s Cup semi-final

EJ Sligo All Stars v Team Kilkenny, Neptune Stadium, 2pm

Hula Hoops U20 Women’s Cup semi-final

Meteors BC v Killester BC, Parochial Hall, 2pm.

Hula Hoops Men’s National Cup semi-finals

SSE Airtricity Moycullen v Griffith Swords Thunder, Neptune Stadium, 4pm

Pyrobel Killester v UCD Marian, Neptune Stadium, 8pm.

Hula Hoops Women’s National Cup semi-finals

Courtyard Liffey Celtics v DCU Mercy, Neptune Stadium, 6pm.

Hula Hoops Senior Women’s Cup semi-finals

Oblate Dynamos v Marble City Hawks, Parochial Hall, 4pm

ITC Basketball v Ulster Rockets, Parochial Hall, 8pm.

Hula Hoops Women’s NICC semi-finals

St Mary’s Castleisland v Maree BC, Parochial Hall, 6pm.

Sunday

Hula Hoops U20 Men’s Cup semi-finals

Maree BC v BFG Neptune, Neptune Stadium, 10am; Moycullen BC v KUBS, Neptune Stadium, 12pm.

Hula Hoops Men’s NICC semi-final

Ballincollig BC v UCD Marian, Neptune Stadium, 2pm.

Hula Hoops U20 Women’s Cup semi-final

DCU Mercy v Ambassador UCC Glanmire, Parochial Hall, 10am.

Hula Hoops Women’s NICC semi-finals

Muckno Lakers v Limerick Celtics, Parochial Hall, 12pm.

Hula Hoops Men’s NICC semi-final

Limerick Celtics v Blue Demons, Parochial Hall, 3pm.

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