If there aren’t many palatable reasons to remember the 80’s, the explosion of basketball in Cork was a passion worth savouring.
The Parochial Hall was everything that town hall hoops smelt of: raucous crowds in dimly lit arenas, the wall of noise four deep.
And again last night as school examinations forced the National Cup quarter final to be handed back to the Gurranabraher venue from Neptune Stadium. As an occasion, Demons and Tralee was deliciously edgy. An all ticket occasion demanded a momentous Munster night and if it wasn’t quite a festival of lights in terms of technical excellence, it was unquestionably engaging. Demons picked up four technicals on the night with Kyle Hosford ejected in the third quarter. A winter’s wail.
It was UCC Demons who ultimately prevailed, advancing to a Cup semi clash early next month against Templeogue on the back of an exquisite 26-point display from the dashing Adrian O’Sullivan.
The Irish international ran the table in the first half, and demonstrated his prowess from downtown with three massive three pointers in the second half when the fat was truly in the fire.
Tralee’s frustration afterwards was palpable, but more at themselves than anything else. They led for the largest part of the night, but as in life, timing is everything.
Right out of the gun at the start of the fourth quarter – Tralee leading 48-43 – Demons nailed back to back threes from O’Sullivan and Jack O’Mahony. It was the spark they needed. A mini three-party followed, with Tralee’s Fergal O’Sullivan converting from deep, but Adrian O’Sullivan answered right back. Suddenly, with 8.01 left on the night, the Cork side had edged 52-51 in front. It tip-toed back and forth. Colin O’Reilly – subdued generally – grabbed two, but Kieran Donaghy responded in kind.
It was 59 apiece at the two minute mark, but there was one big three left – appropriately from the MVP O’Sullivan to give Demons a decisive 62-59 advantage.
It was an oddly low-scoring affair on the whole, the tightness of the exchanges limiting any meaningful expression beyond O’Sullivan.
And in truth, it was a wretched first half of shooting from both sides.
Whatever excuse Tralee may have had for the low shooting percentage, Demons should have been more comfortable in the old Hall. Adrian O’Sullivan stood out like a beacon, scampering for 14 points as his colleagues went 12 of 34 from the field. Demons fared little better from the line and their tetchiness manifested itself in two first half technicals – one on the bench, the other on Kyle Hosford. Player coach Colin O’Reilly was in the officials’ ears persistently in the first two quarters. Did it impact on his own game? Legit question.
Tralee only converted 4 of 17 first half field goal tries and were relieved when Pemberton drained a three to edge them 10-9 in front. Fergal O’Sullivan converted again from outside the arc at 8.33 in the second to nudge the visitors four in front (19-15) but in truth neither bench could have been happy with the accuracy.
O’Sullivan – Adrian that is – elevated himself above the mediocrity for a lay-up, and his seventh basket of the night levelled it at 25. By the break, the 2015 Cup winners had edged one point in front (28-27)..
Two big back to back threes from Pemberton at 6.50 in the third broke open the contest, giving Tralee relative breathing space at 38-31, but Colbert got busy inside to chip into the lead with an eight point third quarter. Adrian O’Sullivan’s tour de force was not done with either.
Demons top scorers: Adrian O’Sullivan (26) Lehmonn Colbert (15), Darko Bucan (10), Colin O’Reilly (7)
Tralee top scorers: Trae Pemberton (15), Daragh O’Hanlon (10), Kieran Donaghy (9), Goran Pantovic (8).