After the Men’s Cup action a week ago, the Women’s National Cup takes centre stage this weekend, with the four quarter-finals in the newly-named Paudie O’Connor Cup.
Unquestionably, the standout tie takes place on Sunday at the DCU Complex, when champions DCU Mercy host great rivals Ambassador UCC Glanmire.
Last January, DCU Mercy halted Glanmire’s quest for five Cup titles in-a-row at the National Arena, pipping the reigning champions 72-71. DCU’s Sarah Woods was crowned MVP on the day and, fast forwarding to Sunday, she’s set to lead the way again, ably supported by Aisling Sullivan and young stars, including Bronagh Power Cassidy and Rachel Huijsdens.
DCU showed their strength in depth last weekend in a league clash when they defeated the Cork outfit by 20 points, but DCU coach Mark Ingle believes that will count for nothing in this game.
“We played well enough and executed consistently, but Glanmire failed to take their chances and we have prepared for a tougher assignment on this occasion,” said Ingle. “Over the years, when we played Glanmire in this championship, they have always been tough encounters and I am sure Sunday will not be for the faint hearted.”
The mood in the Glanmire camp is one of optimism, but coach Mark Scannell believes his team will need a season best to prevail.
“To be fair, DCU Mercy outplayed us in the league game and, as a coach, all I can do is hope my team are in the zone or they will get another rude awakening.”
Glanmire’s Louise Scannell, who didn’t play last weekend, is set to return and Miriam Loughery is confident of getting over a back problem.
Cork side Fr Mathews will fancy their prospects of making the semi-final, as they get ready to face basement side NUIG Mystics. Mathews are a useful side and, with experienced players like Gráinne and Niamh Dwyer, they should have too much firepower for the westerners.
For coach James Fleming, the key word is respect: “Sport can sometimes throw up the unexpected and we will show NUIG Mystics the respect they deserve.”
A third Cork outfit, Singletons Supervalu Brunell, are also hoping for a place in the semi-finals by seeing off the challenge of IT Carlow. Brunell defeated Carlow comfortably in a recent league clash, but coach Tim O’Halloran has prepared his side for a revenge act.
“Sometimes, when you defeat a team, but feel they haven’t shown their full hand, it can make you suspicious as a coach and, as a team, we have to ensure that we cut out making basic errors, as turnovers were at a premium against NUIG last weekend.”
Brunell will need Americans Trish Byrne and Maddie Ganser to be in double digits, as Carlow will welcome back former Irish International Ann Marie Healy.
Courtyard Liffey Celtics are having a superb season and they will be expected to see off the challenge of WIT Wildcats at the Leixlip Sports Complex.
In the regular season Men’s Super League, leaders Belfast Star welcome Maree and, with American Mike Davis having a superb season, it would be a major shock if the westerners got anything from this game.
The Tralee Sports Complex is in for another night of intense basketball, when Garvey’s Tralee Warriors host the champions UCD Marian. The Warriors had to battle to see off UCC Demons in the cup quarter-final and UCD Marian are sure to test their credentials.
DCU Saints were demolished in the cup by UCD Marian and coach Joey Boylan will need his side to put in a far better shift when they meet Keane’s Supervalu Killorglin.
Killester produced champagne basketball against Swords Thunder in the cup, as they prepared to welcome UCC Demons at Clontarf. Demons led Tralee Warriors by 16 points at half time, before a meltdown allowed the Kerry side to wear them down and, though they are capable of another big performance, Killester are a tough side to crack on home terrain.
Griffith College Swords Thunder have home advantage for the visit of C&S Neptune, who are on a three-game winning sequence after losing their opening five league games. Neptune’s American, Lehmon Colbert, is playing superb basketball and, with young players Cian Heaphy and Darragh O’Sullivan capable of hurting Thunder, a fourth win could be on the cards for the Cork outfit.
Templeogue should get back to winning ways when they host Moycullen at the Oblate Hall.