C&S UCC Demons continue their bid for a third consecutive Premier Men’s National title at the Mardyke Arena tonight, where they host Swords Thunder in the first semi-final on a bonanza weekend for basketball in Cork.
Demons beat the Dublin side 95-70 at the same stage last year and will start warm favourites, though American Lehmon Colbert has warned his teammates about complacency.
“I have learned over the years, playing in England and Ireland, that cup basketball can sometimes throw up the unexpected and we will need to be focused,” Colbert said.
Demons, who went last season unbeaten, have already lost twice in this campaign, but Colbert believes his team still has the bottle for battle.
“Losing Shane Coughlan was bound to affect us, as his leadership and skills both on and off court was something the players at Demons appreciated.”
Colbert spoke of his relief at the return of another stalwart, Niall O’Reilly, in last week’s win over Killester. “Niall is in the same category as Shane, when it comes to big players for big games and he will certainly give us more options for the remainder of the campaign.”
Swords Thunder took the league by storm last season before fading in the closing weeks, but haven’t been the same force in this campaign. However, coach Dave Baker is happy with his side’s preparations.
“It is great to be going to Cork as raging underdogs to play in a game of this magnitude but we do know that it will take a mighty effort to defeat Demons on their home court,” Baker said.
“We have worked hard on the training court and all I will be asking of my players is to give their all and hopefully we will get the rub of the green.”
The Dublin side play an attractive brand of free-flowing basketball and are buoyed by the return of American Mike Jarrow, who missed the league defeat to Demons.
Demons have only one injury worry with Niall Murphy suffering ligament damage to his finger.
The clash between Demons point guard Kyle Hosford and Swords Isaac Westbrooks could play a key part in influencing who comes out on top of this intriguing game.
The second semi-final between Killester and Templeogue is sure to attract a large attendance to the same venue tomorrow. Templeogue are unbeaten in all competitions this season, but coach Mark Keenan discounts the relevance of that 10-0.
“We have done relatively well in our league games but, believe me, league form goes out the window when you are 40 minutes from a cup final.”
The Templeogue boss, who experienced many national successes with Killester over a long and distinguished coaching career, is under no illusions as to the task his side faces in this encounter.
“Killester are a very good side and with Paul Dick almost back to full fitness, they will a tough outfit to crack.”
The mood in the Killester camp is positive, with star point guard Ciaran Roe returning to the side that lost last week to Demons.
For coach Brian O’Malley, who once strutted his stuff with Ballina in the Premier League, this is a chance for his team to showcase their skills on the big stage.
“We lost to Templeogue recently and we know how good they are but we also believe this is a great opportunity for our club to reach a final of the biggest championship in this country,” O’Malley said.
The Killester chief believes the game will be decided by how his team defends against their free-scoring opponents.
“Templeogue have a number of scoring options and that’s why they are unbeaten this season but I honestly believe we have a team that can put it up to them on the day.”
The battle between the Killester American Jermaine Turner and Templeogue’s Mike Bonaparte will be interesting, as Turner has been known to lift his game in this championship.
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