Pyrobel Killester lifted their first Hula Hoops Men’s Pat Duffy National Cup Final since 2010 after a hard-earned win over UCD Marian at the National Basketball Arena on Saturday.
In a low-scoring game, Killester had to come from behind at the end of the third quarter when UCD Marian commanded a seven-point lead.
It was a special evening for Killester coach Brian O’Malley, who praised his players’ battling qualities, particularly coming down the stretch when the game hung in the balance.
O’Malley said: “We knew coming into the game that it would be hard to break down the UCD defence and they duly shut us down in periods when we struggled to score, but it was a tactical, defensive game.”
The Killester chief praised his players’ endeavour, as well as the contribution of his ace point-guard Ciaran Roe late in the game.
O’Malley added: “Ciaran got us going when we went a little flat at the end of the third quarter and he basically took the game by the scruff of the neck at the start of the fourth.
“The dedication of Ciaran is incredible, and you could see his level of fitness to play 40 minutes at the highest level of basketball.
“To be fair, this squad have got a great mentality as we lost the league final to UCD Marian last year and to come back and gain the upper hand over the same opposition is testament to their character.”
The mood in the UCD Marian camp was naturally one of disappointment.
Stalwart Conor Meany said: “To be honest, when you score 63 points in a final you don’t expect to win many games at this level and overall the shots simply wouldn’t drop for us at crucial times of the game.”
Having lost last year’s final to Templeogue, losing for the second time is hard to take.
He added: “Losing one is bad enough but two on the trot is devastating — but that’s sport, and now we have to knuckle down and try and retain our Super League title.”
It was a battle of the big men in the opening half as Killester’s Luis Garcia Hoos and Neil Baynes worked hard for supremacy at the post.
Killester played the smarter basketball and it was no surprise they commanded a 37-30 interval lead.
Mariusz Markowitz got UCD fired up as he scored seven unanswered points to level the game.
The shooting of UCD’s Cathal Finn was sublime at times, nailing four three-pointers as he punished Killester outside the perimeter.
Trailing by seven points entering the last quarter Killester needed inspiration and they got it at the right time.
Cometh the hour cometh the man, as Ciaran Roe took complete control to get his side back level with five minutes remaining.
The rotations of the UCD Marian coach Ioannis Liapakis raised some eyebrows as Scott Kinevane — who had a terrific opening half — saw little time in the second. Markowitz was withdrawn in the last quarter after he picked up his third foul, when it may have been worth keeping faith in him for his influence at the post.
UCD even had a chance to win it with seven seconds remaining, but they turned over the ball and Kieran O’Brien was on hand to seal a famous win for Killester.
Cork-born O’Brien, who began his basketball with Neptune, couldn’t hide his delight after the game.
“I am playing at this level for 20 years and this is my first cup medal and by God was it earned, as you get nothing easy against UCD Marian.”
Scorers for Killester: L F Hoyos 18, R Williams 13, C Roe 12.
UCD Marian: C Finn 12, C Llobera 10, C Meany 9.
PYROBEL KILLESTER: F Huerta, A McGeever, Anderson, A Casey, K O’Brien, L Filberto Garcia Hoyos, Paddy Sullivan, M Westbrooks, C Roe, E Esuku, Williams, A Herreros.
UCD MARIAN: C Finn, C Meany, M Markowicz, S Kinevane, A Dunne, J Jordi Vall Llobera, B Drumm, M Kelly, C Smith, M Garrow, N Baynes, Eoin Nelson.
Referees: M Nazimek (Dublin), M McGettrick (Dublin), I Freire (Dublin).
MVP: Luis Filberto Garcia Royos (Killester).