Kieran Donaghy at last reached the Holy Grail with Tralee Warriors as they outclassed a highly fancied C&S Neptune side in the Pat Duffy Men’s National Cup final at the National Basketball Arena on Saturday night.
The Warriors stalwart will be 39 on March 1 but he announced after the game that he is ready for some more action next season.
“I enjoy the game so much and I don’t think I am ready to hang the boots just yet as long as I feel I can help this team," he said.
Reflecting on the game Donaghy believes his side got their preparations spot on.
“We knew Neptune had a good squad with a great history in the sport but we felt it was our time and we weren’t going out the door without that championship,” added Donaghy.
Former coaches Russ Bradburd and Pat Price were in attendance and Donaghy believes this is what the Tralee club is all about.
“It’s a family and, having personally suffered a number of semi-final defeats, this is one magical feeling and I would like to pay tribute to the greats fans in Tralee who have never let us down.”
It was obvious both teams looked tentative in the opening exchanges with a number of missed shots before Daniel Jokubaitis banked one in the second minute.
Nil Sabata levelled on the next possession but the arena erupted when Cian Heaphy took off from the top of the quay and produced a wonder slam dunk.
The play was fast and furious but both sides were making basic mistakes as Eoin Quigley scored an unchallenged lay-up that edged the Warriors ahead 9-7 in the sixth minute.
The introduction of Donaghy paid dividends as he scored consecutive baskets that gave his team a six-point cushion before Miles Washington replied with a neat basket.
In the closing minute Donaghy executed his third basket but Neptune’s Catalonian Aleix Tarradellas made a late three-pointer that reduced the deficit to 17-12 entering the second quarter.
The standard of shooting improved and the Warriors were beginning to take control and, following an unsportsmanlike foul called on Colin O’Reilly, the Tralee side surged into a ten-point lead.
Amazingly, Neptune had only scored 23 points up to the 17th minute and as they went for a time out they trailed by 11 points, 34-23.
It got worse for Neptune on the restart as the Tralee side extended their lead to 15 points as the Blackpool side was on the ropes.
The lead was reduced to 12 points with 1.06 remaining to the interval when the Warriors called a time out.
Indeed, the Tralee side finished in style as a stunning Jokubaitis three-pointer saw them go in at the break commanding a healthy 43-28 lead.
The biggest problem for Neptune was their lack of scoring and it wasn’t the amount of shots missed as they only attempted 13 outside the arc and made four.
Poor defending on the restart allowed Aaron Calixte increase the lead to 17 as they needed to shut up shop to get back in the game.
Two Colin O’Reilly free throws followed and when Washington followed up another basket the deficit was reduced to eight points, 50-42, as the atmosphere in the arena lifted.
Credit to the Warriors who responded and with three minutes remaining they had restored a 14-point lead.
Then came a slight coming together of players that saw Kieran Donaghy punished with his fourth foul but Neptune failed to capitalise and trailed 60-45 with 1.15 left on the clock.
Entering the last quarter, Neptune looked in serious trouble as they trailed 64-50 and a huge three-pointer from Jokabaitis extended it to 17.
Coming down the stretch the Warriors continued to score at will, despite the efforts of Neptune who, to be fair, ran themselves into the floor to get back in the game.
On a night when the ‘Rose of Tralee’ echoed around the Tallaght arena, it certainly was the Warriors night. And for a certain Mr. Donaghy the show goes on.
What a story. What a man.
D Jokubaitis 19, A Calixte 19, E Quigley 14.
N Sabata 21, R Downey 17, A Tarradellas 11.
B Cotton, N Roso, A Calixte, Z Kaletka, F O’Sullivan, O Michalczuk, D O’Hanlon, K Crowe, K Donaghy, D Jokubaitis, J Fernane, S Bowler, E Quigley, A Fleming, R Elksnis, P Fleming.
G Walsh, J Hannigan, R Downey, K O’Donoghue, D Varma, C Heaphy, M Washington, N Sabata, C O’Reilly, A Tarradellis, A Heaphy, C Leahy.
M Nazimek (Dublin), E Perry (Dublin), C White (Dublin).
Daniel Jokubaitis (Garvey’s Tralee Warriors).