Ambassador Glanmire UCC are going to the National Cup semi-final weekend, but their build-up’s been a little different this year.

The perennial power in the women’s game, their preparation for today’s final four clash against Brunell has been upset in recent weeks by an eligibility row centring on their American player Adily Martucci.

The furore meant Martucci was ruled out of the quarter-final with Pyrobel Killester, which itself was deferred as the issue was thrashed out, but when Glanmire finally got to face the Dubliners they dominated 89-74.

Illness rather than the rulebook may keep Martucci on the bench today, but Glanmire captain Áine McKenna, the top scorer against Killester, acknowledged the controversy served to spur her team on.

“I think it has, certainly. We couldn’t wait to get to the Killester game, to be out on the court actually playing a game, and that contributed to us coming out so strongly in that game. We just wanted to play it, to get it over and done with, and we did just that, so it’s all been put to bed now and we’re really looking forward to this weekend.”

Another key factor was the experience of coach Mark Scannell.

“Training has a lot to do with it, and Mark’s ability to change that up, to make sure we’re fresh at training, is hugely important. When you know you’re not going up to training for the same thing night in night out it makes a big difference.

“That makes it a lot easier, and he’s the one who drives all of that.”

Glanmire are striving for an incredible five titles in a row, which brings its own pressures, but McKenna also points to the experience that such a run gives a team.

“It’s important to realise it’s there, let’s be honest. We’re all experienced enough to take it game by game, and we’re a little younger this year: A lot of the players we have coming in off the bench in games are 18 or 19 rather than 25 or 26.

“They’ve been a huge help, though, they’ve built up their own experience as well over the summer, and now it’s coming to fruition.

“Having the experience does help in terms of being able to focus, probably. You know that you’re in with a chance of creating history, something that may never be done again, so it helps to have so many players around who’ve been through it, who have that experience to draw on, but even so, you have to take every game as it comes, as well.

“Most of us are experienced, but we still all want to be there at the cup finals weekend. Nobody wants to be at home on the couch watching on.”

McKenna points out that Brunell, their semi-final opponents, are “a little stronger” this year than last season.

“The build-up’s been pretty similar to last year, but there are differences. Brunell may be a little stronger this year. Their two Americans have certainly brought a lot to their team and they seem to be doing a lot better in the league. They’re definitely a team to be wary of. The Americans add a lot, but Amy Murphy — who made a name for herself this past summer playing for Ireland — is someone else who’s been very impressive. She’s been scoring freely, so she’s someone we’re going to have to shut down.

“And you have Amy Waters and Danielle O’Leary, who are very consistent and will always give you a good game. Brunell are certainly a force to reckon with this year, when they put all those different pieces together.

“The new American, Breana Bey, who plays inside, is very hard to stop. The last time we played them, she ended up with 20 points, so we’ll have to be on our guard there, but the big court suits us and we’ve done well there in the past, so those are the kinds of things we’ll be trying to focus on.”

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