Basketball: Dooley delivers as Glanmire take control of Women's Superleague

Talking Points: Scannell edges Mardyke, Demons and Neptune both looking good in the Men's League, Tralee stay in the hunt
Basketball: Dooley delivers as Glanmire take control of Women's Superleague

ON THE MOVE: UCC Glanmire's Mia Furling breaking past Sarah Kenny, Trinity Meteors during Sunday's big Women’s Super League match at the Mardyke Arena, Cork. Pic: Dan Linehan

Glanmire take control of title race.

It was a clash of the Women's Superleague titans in Cork on Sunday as Trinity Meteors travelled to face Glanmire at the Mardyke Arena. 

With both teams coming into the game on just one loss, whoever won the game was going to have one hand on the League title this year. Meteors had already beaten Glanmire twice in quick succession earlier in the year but it proved third time the charm for Glanmire as their offense proved too much for the Dubliners. Glanmire have the perfect balance of two good Americans, experienced Irish players and a brilliant head coach and that combination was enough as they won 80-64. Meteors were able to keep pace for the first half but Glanmire’s depth in shooting ability proved the difference. With five games to go, the visit to DCU Mercy in early March is where Meteors will be hoping for help but even with that Glanmire hold the head-to-head as they’ve beaten Meteors by 16 and only lost by seven.

Amy Dooley delivers again for Scannell

Amy Dooley often does a thankless job for Glanmire as outsiders won’t see her scoring or being one of the most talked-about names - and yet she is critical to their success this and every season. In Sunday’s battle with Meteors, Dooley was huge on the boards and fought valiantly against Celena Taborn who had a season-low 13 points in the loss. In the two losses to Meteors earlier in the year, Dooley was the only Glanmire player who had a positive +/- rating in both of those games. Her impact was seen again on Sunday; although she scored just one point in 27 minutes of action, she had an incredible +/- of 27, by far the best on the team. The outside world rarely will recognise her impact but Mark Scannell knows what he has and he knows that without Dooley Glanmire would have struggled with Meteors interior presence.

Glanmire's Brittany Byrd looks for the lane with internationals Claire Melia and Dayna Finn opposing her at the Mardyke
Glanmire's Brittany Byrd looks for the lane with internationals Claire Melia and Dayna Finn opposing her at the Mardyke

Meteors shot down. So is that it for them?

Meteors game plan all season has been straightforward. Get the ball inside on offence and defensively use their length to force teams to beat them from the outside. That plan has been brilliant as they’ve beaten nearly everyone who has stepped in front of them this year. Very few teams have the size to trouble Celena Taborn defensively and even less have the capability to beat them from the outside. Unfortunately for Niall Berry’s team, two teams have achieved that in recent weeks as both Killester in the Cup final and Glanmire on Sunday managed to punish them from the outside. Killester hit 14 three pointers and Glanmire scored 13 threes on Sunday as both beat Meteors comfortably. In all competitions, Meteors give up just 5.8 threes a game in wins and 10 threes a game in losses. The title challenge isn’t over for Meteors but if they are to win one of the major trophies, this year or next, they will have to be able to defend the three-point line more effectively against the top teams.

Cork's derby drama

Over the past ten years, there were too many years with either Neptune or Demons missing from the Super League. Friday night’s Cork derby in the Mardyke Arena was a perfect example of why the league badly needs its’ biggest matchup. There was a lot of hype coming into the game with both teams on an upward trajectory and it absolutely delivered. An up-and-down high scoring battle in front of a full house was exactly what the doctor ordered as Demons managed to win 93-91. Both teams showed examples of why they could contend for the league title at the end of the year but they also highlighted some of the deficiencies that could cost them in the long run. As the game ended with Neptune narrowly missing a game-tieing buzzer beater, the only hope we have is that we get one more match up between the teams this year.

Randolph's pre-eminence, Demons’ hierarchy

The biggest factor in UCC Demons' Friday night delight was that they are the more settled team with a clear hierarchy. MJ Randolph is one of the best Americans to play in Ireland in recent years and he’s undoubtedly the best player for Demons. When Demons were in trouble trailing by as many as many as 12 points early on, they always knew they could turn to Randolph to get them going offensively. With Tala Fam as the perfect second option, Kyle Hosford and Kinglsey Nwagboso both playing solid complementary roles and then the young core of the Hannigans and Lehane, Danny O’Mahony’s team is solidly built and everybody knows what they bring to the table. Demons have lost only four games this year, their opening two games as they returned to the Super League, and two games in November when they were missing their American. Since Randolph arrived in Ireland they are 6-0 with impressive wins against some of the top teams in the Southern Conference. More tests are on the way but the Mardyke is not somewhere teams will want to go to in the playoffs.

Neptune need time

Friday night was the ideal test for Colin O’Reilly’s team and one they needed for their long-term title aspirations. They say you learn more in defeat than in victory and Neptune will certainly have learnt a lot from the derby loss. In the opening 10 minutes Neptune showed what could possibly be the best offense the league has seen since the O’Reilly-coached Demons team that went undefeated.

They had everything flowing on their way to 35 points and looked unstoppable. Demons cranked up the physicality and pressure for the remainder of the game and Neptune only scored 15 points in both the second and third quarters. As free flowing as they looked in the first, Neptune looked stuck for large parts of the game as they weren’t 100% sure where to turn. As much as Demons have Randolph as their safety blanket when they need a score, Neptune have more firepower and options available which is a good and bad thing. When rolling it’s amazing but when they lose their rhythm uncertainty creeps in. In Ferguson, Sabata and Blount they have a complementary trio who should be untouchable, but they still need to figure out how to utilise those weapons in testing moments. If they get it right they could still be the team to beat.

Friday Night lights: Michael Randolph Jnr in action in the Cork derby against Energywise Ireland Neptune
Friday Night lights: Michael Randolph Jnr in action in the Cork derby against Energywise Ireland Neptune

Hannigan’s step up

Coming into the year one of the stories in Cork was that James and Scott Hannigan were leaving their home in Neptune to go to cross-town rivals Demons in search of more playing time. The move has paid off as they both have had big contributions to Demons this season - and none more so than on Friday night. James had his second-highest scoring game of the year with 10 and Scott added his highest-scoring game with six. It wasn’t the scoring though that made the difference it was the presence that James in particular had when Demons captain Kyle Hosford found himself in foul trouble. Hosford was limited to just 13 minutes overall, so Danny O’Mahony needed James to give him big minutes and he dutifully delivered. It’s minutes like these and contributions from veterans like Carlton Cuff that ultimately won the game for Demons.

Tralee stay in the hunt

Neptune’s loss meant that Tralee are still in the hunt for a playoff spot but they first had to navigate a tricky Kerry derby, away in Killorglin. Things didn’t look great for the Warriors as they trailed by five at half-time. A huge second half led by the trio of American DeOndre Jackson, Matija Jokic and Daniel Jokubaitis (returning to his old home) was enough to get a key 90-78 win for the Warriors.

Tralee sit on 7-7 and are chasing Neptune (8-6) for the final playoff spot. The two teams play in the final game of the regular season. Both teams have difficult tests against Killester and Neptune also have to play Belfast Star in what will be a big game. Neptune are still in the driving seat but all Tralee can do is keep winning and put the pressure on them.

Eanna’s depth  the difference

It was a familiar story for both DBS Eanna and St Vincent’s on Saturday night as Eanna used their superior depth and scoring options to beat the north Dubliners 82-60. Vincent’s had their three professionals combine for 55 but incredible only one other player scored for them and that lack of depth was impossible to overcome. For Eanna, Marko Tomic’s league return was impressive with 17 points and the balance in scoring was there to see again. Eanna have a great test coming up with a repeat of the Cup Final next week as they head to face Maree and that will tell us whether or not they will have any answer to Maree’s size and zone this time.

Ulster University keep playoff hopes alive

It was a big weekend for Ulster University’s women as they beat Liffey Celtics (84-80) in Belfast. Ulster hit 12 threes in the game with Ciara Cooke (18) and Ciara White (21) both recording season highs. The win for Ulster means they move to 4-9 the same record as Liffey Celtics. The two teams are one win behind the two Cork teams Fr Mathews and Brunell. With five games to go, one of the four will secure the final playoff spot and it’s hard to see who is going to take it. For Cork fans it could well come down to the winner of the Cork derby between Mathews and Brunell on the second last weekend of the year.

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