John Coughlan previews the weekend’s basketball action.
National Basketball Arena
Hula Hoops U20 Women’s National Cup: Pyrobel Killester v DCU Mercy, 10am
DCU Mercy will begin their quest for the elusive double today when they play championship favourites Killester.
The Coolock side defeated Brunell in an epic semi-final while Liffey Celtics also pushed Killester hard.
Mercy, under coach Mark Ingle, are a young side and are very organised in defence.
Killester Premier League star Aisling Sullivan is at the helm for the Clontarf outfit that will be looking to the skills of Aoibheann Byrne and Ally McGrath.
A tough game to call but coach Ingle’s experience may just sway it DCU’s way.
Hula Hoops Men’s Intermediate Club Championships: St Brendan’s Tralee v BC Leixlip Nemunas, 12pm
The inaugural Men’s Intermediate Cup final will see Tralee side St Brendan’s take on Kildare outfit Leixlip Nemunas.
The Kerry side will have football star Kieran Donaghy in their squad and his experience could well pose the Leixlip based side problems.
In the semi-final, Brendan’s were simply awesome when eliminating Cork Celts and a repeat of that performance could see them crowned champions.
In Mazvydas Cepliauskas, the former Dublin Inter star, the Kildare outfit have a side that mainly consists of European players and are rated outsiders for this final.
Hula Hoops U18 Men’s National Cup: BFG Neptune v Moycullen BC, 2pm
BFG Neptune will hope to win their first U18 Men’s title when they play crack Galway outfit Moycullen.
The Neptune side have been touted as the ‘Dream Team’ within their club as many of the faithful are hoping this squad form the basis for their return to the Premier league.Neptune were pushed all the way by Maree in the semi-final while their opponents were taken to extra-time by Tolka Rovers.
Eoghan Kelly will no doubt play a captain’s part for Moycullen but Neptune’s twin scoring threat of Sean Jenkins and Adam Drummond may swing it for them.
Hula Hoops Presidents’ National Cup: Maree v C&S Blue Demons, 5.30pm
C & S Blue Demons will put their Presidents Cup title on the line when they face crack Galway outfit Maree.
Demons went into last year’s final as underdogs but defied all the odds to defeat another Galway side in Moycullen.
Demons are a very capable shooting team who on their best day are a nightmare for opposing teams. League leaders Maree have never won the championship but many feel the scoring threat of Kenneth Hansberry will prove too much for Demons to handle.
This final could well go down to the wire but Maree have the more balanced side.
Hula Hoops Men’s National Cup: GCD Swords Thunder v Templeogue BC, 8pm (TG4 Live).
Two teams yearning for their first Premier National Cup title is sure to attract a capacity attendance to the National Basketball Arena.
The Swords outfit, under coach Dave Baker, defeated Templeogue in the league a fortnight ago and will feel they can repeat that feat if they produce the basketball they showcased against holders C & S UCC Demons.
After two impressive wins, Baker had to endure defeat last weekend to UCD Marian but he believes all form goes out the window in this decider.
“We had a good fortnight but last week underachieved against UCD Marian and suffered the consequences but I am sure this final will be decided on who wants it most,” Baker said.
Swords have a talented side when in full flow but the performance of point guard Isaac Westbrooks will be crucial.
American Dan Nelms and Bosman Alex Dolenko are both decent shooters but coach Baker believes this game will be decided on who plays the sterner defence.
“We are capable of hitting the numbers but I think our defence will be crucial as Templeogue can hurt you outside and inside the perimeter, added Baker.
It has been a tough month for Templeogue coach Mark Keenan, who lost American Michael Bonaparte to an ankle injury and saw Conor Grace fracture his fingers.
“We are hoping Michael will be ready and the chance of Conor playing is minimal but we have to play the cards we are dealt,” Keenan said.
The Templeogue chief is confident his players will rise to the occasion as morale is positive and Paul Cummings could make a welcome return.
“We have a great squad and have trained exceptionally hard, but like any other final they are all won on the day and if we produce the basketball we are capable of there is every chance of winning this championship,” Keenan added.
This game could be equivalent to a battle of wits as Templeogue defeated Killester in low scoring semi-final without Bonaparte as coach Keenan concentrated on restricting the Clontarf outfit.
This is a great opportunity for Swords Thunder to claim their first title in their second season competing at this level but Templeogue hold all the aces.
National Basketball Arena
Hula Hoops U20 Men’s National Cup: BFG Neptune v St Vincent’s, 10.30am.
Neptune hope they will be chasing a double when they face crack Dublin outfit St Vincent’s.
The Cork side were impressive in their semi-final win over Templeogue as the carnival atmosphere inspired them to play champagne basketball.
However their opponents tomorrow will be far tougher and were coolness personified in defeating Moycullen in an epic semi-final.
Vincent’s have a superb coach in Joey Boylan and have several players playing in the Premier League and that experience could prove the difference between the sides.
Hula Hoops U18 Women’s National Cup: Brunell v DCU Mercy, 12.30pm
DCU Mercy are rated the hottest favourites of finals weekend ahead of their clash with Cork outfit Singleton’s Supervalu Brunell.
These teams met in the first round robin series in this championship with the Dublin outfit running out comfortable 30-point winners.
Brunell coach Kieran O’Leary believes his side are better equipped to test the credentials of DCU on this occasion although he will miss the injured Andrea Moynihan.
The word from the DCU Mercy camp is also positive with coach Joan Philips hoping the skills and height of her squad exposes the smaller Brunell side.
Surely the title will remain in the capital.
Hula Hoops Senior Women’s National Cup: Oblate Dynamos v NUIG Mystics, 2.30pm
It is NUIG Mystics’ debut Senior Women’s cup final appearance as they clash with Drimnagh Dynamos.
The Galway outfit lead the Women’s Division 1 and are widely touted as certainties to win this championship.
It would be foolish to discount Drimnagh as they shocked a highly rated Fr Mathews side in the semi-final and coach Terry Staunton knows how to prepare his side for games like this.
Mystics have Irish Senior International Michelle Fahy in their squad and that may help them reach the holy grail.
Hula Hoops Women’s National Cup: Team Montenotte Hotel v Pyrobel Killester, 5.15pm (TG4 Live).
There will be a great atmosphere at basketball headquarters on Sunday when champions Team Montenotte clash with Killester.
This is the same line up, as last season when Team Montenotte ran riot and demolished their Clontarf opponents but coach Mark Scannell believes this game will a complete different scenario.
“To be fair Killester didn’t bring their A game to table last season and we ended up winning comfortably but to be honest right now they are a far stronger team,” Scannell said.
Killester defeated Montenotte at the same venue this season in a league game and Scannell knows his team will have to be focused from tip off.
“We know Killester are a good shooting team as they exposed us in our first round league game but we did the same to them when we played them at home in December so I guess this will be game that will decide who the better team is,” added Scannell.
The good news for Montenotte is Casey Grace, who missed the last two games, is back in full training and that will shore up their defence and rebounding departments.
The mood in the Killester camp is positive but coach Karl Kilbride believes his team will have to improve.
“We have won our last two league games against UL Huskies and Brunell but I have to very honest we didn’t play well in either game and I am now hoping we have put those performances behind us,” Karl said.
Coach Kilbride believes his team can compete with the best and is hoping they produce their best form on the biggest stage of all,” added Kilbride.
The battle of tactics could see Montenotte’s coach Scannell concentrate solely on Killester’s outside shooters. In American Rae Contreras Killester have an outstanding player that could destroy Montenotte’s dream of completing their hat trick in this championship.
Montenotte’s Chantell Alford will no doubt want to nullify her fellow American and also contribute in the offence court.
The one minus for Killester is their tendency to concentrate on their shooting outside the perimeter as they have little or no game plan at the post.
That is where Montenotte could wear them down, as Grainne Dwyer and Marie Breen are both quality players banking shots in the low post.
A game that could well go down to the wire but for me Montenotte’s defence could be the key for them winning the title.
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