BASKETBALL: Tears flow as mighty Neptune end drought

Men’s SuperLeague National Cup Final: Bord Gáis Neptune (Cork) 85 UL Eagles (Limerick) 65
Bord Gais Neptune were crowned SuperLeague National Cup champions following a magnificent victory over reigning champions UL Eagles at the National Basketball Arena last night.

MVP Michael McGinn was simply awesome and his 28-point contribution proved vital in his Neptune’s victory.

The scenes at the end from the Neptune players and supporters were incredible as they danced and wept tears of joy.

For Michael McGinn, 21 years for a club like Neptune to be without a National Cup title was far too long as the stalwart paid tribute to his late team-mate Emmet Neville.

McGinn said: “This is the one title I have never won and I would like to dedicate it to Emmet Neville who sadly is looking down on us with pride this evening.

“Although I was selected MVP this was a total team performance and we are going to celebrate this win as I think we earned the right here this evening.”

Neptune began in style when American Darren Townes opened with a superb jumper and followed with a slam dunk that had the capacity crowd on their feet.

The Cork side looked unstoppable in the opening exchanges as they consistently ran the ball from back court and when Ian McLoughlin nailed two free-throws in the third minute the lead was increased to seven, 9-2.

Gradually UL began showing their true form and when Robert Taylor went coast to coast in the fifth minute the lead was reduced to four points.

After a sluggish period Michael McGinn drained a three and suddenly the Cork side were eight ahead and a Noonan assist to the same player saw the Cork side carve open UL’s defence.

A late McGinn drive to the hoop was enough to give Neptune a 12-point lead entering the second quarter.

Matt Hall came up trumps with a three on the restart and the Neptune coach Mark Scannell wisely reintroduced Townes back in the game.

Hall was certainly hot and he added a second three-pointer on Eagles’ next possession but Neptune were not to be denied and two successive baskets gave them a 10-point cushion.

The Limerick side battled hard to get back in the game and after holding Neptune scoreless for three minutes a Niall Campbell three-pointer narrowed the gap to the minimum, 29-28, in the 15th minute.

But Noonan was simply electric with three consecutive assists to McGinn (2) and Townes.

McGinn brought his tally to 18 with a stylish tip-in that gave Neptune a 43-30 half-time lead.

Taylor gave UL the perfect start with a deft drive to the hoop and the American followed up with another basket as Neptune wobbled.

Campbell made it three baskets without reply before a Noonan free-throw stopped the Leesider’s drought.

McGinn continued to punish UL and when he scored and received a bonus shot in the 25th minute the Cork side restored their 14-point lead.

When Townes picked up his fourth foul in the 25th minute it looked ominous for Neptune but it made little difference as they continued to take the game to the champions.

Despite Neptune resting McGinn and Noonan in the closing minutes they were comfortable at 60-45 ahead.

The trend of the game changed little in the opening minutes of the fourth period but UL suffered a setback when Taylor was punished with a technical foul following a spat with an official.

When Neptune needed inspiration Noonan came up with two fakes to the hoop as the title was destined for Leeside when Neptune led by 17 points.

After a scrappy period for Neptune they reintroduced Townes and McGinn with less than five minutes remaining.

Coming down the stretch Neptune looked tentative and when Campbell shot a three with 2:50 remaining the lead was reduced to 71-62.

But credit Neptune, they ran down the clock on a night when skill and determination dethroned the Eagles.

BORD GAIS NEPTUNE: G Walsh, M McGinn, S O’Sullivan, I McLoughlin, G Quinlan, G Noonan, J Wilkinson, D Lenihan, D Cronin, P Stapleton, D Dowling, D Townes, M Rudak.

UL EAGLES: M Cooney, R Taylor, E Quigley, S Kinevane, N Campbell, R Lynch, A Dawson, M Hall, S King, B Reidy, A Holden, J Murphy, C O Gallachoir, J Killeen, R Walsh.

REFEREES: Maciej Nazimek (Dublin), David Caballe (Cork), Joe Robinson (Dublin).

Picture: THE WAIT IS OVER: Bord Gais Neptune’s Ger Noonan and Michael McGinn lift the SuperLeague National Cup after their victory over UL Eagles, their first National Cup title in 21 years. Picture: INPHO



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