It was a typical lunchtime at the Mardyke Arena for UCC Demons’ American Kenton Walker as he prepared to go through his daily workout with coach Paul Kelleher.
Walker is in his final days with Demons as he bids farewell this evening on the National Champions Trophy final stage against DCU Saints at the National Basketball Arena — but does so with a mission.
“Our lack of success has been in reality our failure to play 40 minutes in every game and that proved our downfall in the closing weeks of the SuperLeague season,” Kenton said.
“I’ve sometimes laid in bed and wondered why we could never put four quarters together because, believe me, they are some wonderfully talented players at Demons.”
Tonight, it’s last chance saloon for Demons to end a four-year drought without silverware and Walker is determined not to allow the opportunity go a-begging.
“We know we are playing a good side but we can match them and it has the makings of being a very competitive final,” says Walker.
When Demons played Saints in a league game near the end of the season, star player Niall Murphy received a serious injury that put an end to his campaign but Kenton is adamant his team are good enough to get over his loss.
“The foul committed on Niall didn’t look pretty.
“For the first time in my young career I can honestly state how upset I was for Niall because he genuinely wanted to help us and his class was beginning to make a big difference to our team.”
Does the strength and physicality of Saints worry Walker?
“I have played against them on a few occasions but to be honest their play does not affect me and I know we have Irish players capable of standing up for themselves if the going gets tough.”
The standard of Demons squad has impressed Kenton as he looks forward to repaying them and the club for the faith they placed in him back in October.
“I think playing with a captain like Shane Coughlan was an experience in itself because he is such a great talent and is hard nosed when the going gets tough.
“Niall O’Reilly is another stalwart and of course the rest of the team are all young and Demons will be a serious team next season when they get the full compliment of players at their disposal.”
Moving to Cork was an experience that Kenton will always hold dear to his heart.
“I am returning to San Diego on Tuesday and yes I will miss the banter and craic of my team-mates because they are all a fun bunch of guys.
“Cork is a unique city with unique people and when I get older I am sure a tear will come to my eyes when I look back on the happy memories I shared with many genuine folk.
“If I was asked about a negative the one answer would be the weather but other than that it has been a heck of an experience.”
As Walker left for his shooting practice, UCC Demons coach Paul Kelleher summed up the mood in the squad.
“We have no intention in getting involved in a physical battle with Saints because it will take away the good things we do on a basketball court,” Kelleher said.
“My only promise is we will be ready to take the contact.”
Coach Kelleher believes staying focused could ultimately prove the difference between winning and losing tonight.
“We have had lapses of concentration in many games this season where we have been cruising and allowed teams back in games so this will a final that we must be focused from the throw in.”
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