C&S UCC Demons 91 UCD Marian 65: Men’s National Cup Final: ONE supporter summed it up as "hard to beat class" and few at the National Arena were inclined to disagree after this emphatic victory for UCC Demons in the Men’s National Cup final.
Demons came into this final as red-hot favourites and they didn’t let their legion of fans down, as they blitzed their opponents in a fashion that only sides of genuine quality can achieve.
Throughout the build-up, Demons spies were telling them that UCD Marian were spending a lot of time training at basketball headquarters.
Demons preparations were more rudimentary: a 6pm departure from Cork on the eve of the game followed by a work out a nearby gym at noon on the day of the final was how Colin O’Reilly got his team ready.
In this final, UCD Marian decided to give Michael Chubb the job of guarding Colin O’Reilly but that didn’t faze the Demons boss: “We felt we needed to hang in for the first quarter as we were sure they would try come up with a plan of stopping the flow of our game,” O’Reilly said.
Both sides traded baskets in the opening quarter and with Neil Baynes punishing Demons on the baseline, UCD deservedly commanded a 23-21 lead entering the second period.
“They were working hard but when they zoomed on various players, others in my squad stepped up and that’s been the trait of our season to date,” added Colin.
This Demons squad has many qualities and for captain and stalwart Shane Coughlan, the opening half showed why he would be remembered as one of the best players this club has produced in modern times.
When Coughlan stepped up to the plate in the 16th minute with a monstrous three-pointer, it gave his side a 33-30 lead.
From that moment on, Demons ran riot and by the end of the quarter they had surged into a 15-point lead at the break, 47-32. Coughlan and teammate Niall O’Reilly were looking to go to the summit of Irish basketball by winning their sixth medal and they were not going to be denied.
When Demons needed inspiration in the first half, Coughlan produced 14 points: “We were shadow boxing for about 15 minutes but when the pressure intensified we are capable demolishing teams and I could sense UCD were cracking,” Coughlan said.
“When a team plays high tempo basketball and are in your face, you must have a good fit team to withstand the pressure and the bottom line was that UCD found the going too tough to handle.”
The game underwent a startling transformation after the break: within three minutes, this final would be put to bed — when Demons’ Ciaran O’Sullivan nailed a three-pointer in the 24th minute, the curtain looked to have come down on the UCD challenge.
In recent seasons, player coach Colin O’Reilly has been praised for the professional approach he brought to Demons but he chose to praise his players.
“The players are the secret to any success because at the end of the day no matter how good a coach you are, if the players don’t go on court and do the business, nothing can be achieved.”
Leading 67-49 entering the last quarter, Demons looked home and hosed and the performance they got from their American Lehmon Colbert made his selection as MVP a formality.
Colbert finished with a game high 25 points and was happy for the players as well as the loyal fans.
“I have met some wonderful people in my last two seasons with Demons and I think this championship justified the efforts of the players,” Colbert said.
“In this final we had different options to go at and thankfully I got quality ball and nailed the majority of opportunities that came my way.”
UCD Marian captain Conor Meany offered no excuses for his teams’ failure to topple the reigning champions.
“We battled hard but by half-time they had stolen a 15-point lead on us and we basically hadn’t the energy to come at them in the second half,” he admitted.
Scorers for C&S UCC Demons: Lehmon Colbert 25, Shane Coughlan 14, Colin O’Reilly 13.
UCD Marian: Neil Baynes 20, Preston Ross 15
Referees: Maciej Nazimek (Dublin, Lynda Cassidy (Dublin), Indrek Aim (Dublin).
MVP: Lehmon Colbert (UCC Demons).
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