This weekend marks one of the biggest dates in the Basketball Ireland calendar with the National Cup semi finals set to take place in Cork for the second successive season.
Sunday will take centre stage when reigning Men’s SuperLeague Cup champions 11890 Killester take on an in-form UL Eagles, while Ulster Elks make their first appearance in the last four against experienced campaigners UCD Marian.
In the Women’s SuperLeague National Cup semi finals, holders DCU Mercy face 11890 Killester in an all capital affair, while Team Montenotte Hotel Cork clash with Munster rivals Waterford Wildcats.
11890 Killester will have to put two recent shock results behind them when they face Southern Conference leaders UL Eagles on Sunday afternoon.
Killester brought a record of 11 consecutive league and cup wins into 2011 but their preparations for this game have been rocked by surprise losses to DCU Saints and Belfast Star respectively.
Killester Head Coach Mark Keenan admits he is struggling to understand the reasons for the recent slump, but believes it is within the team’s capabilities to turn things around. “It is difficult to put a finger on exactly what has gone wrong,” said Keenan. “Maybe we became a bit complacent. The Christmas break may also have had something to do with it. We have been far below our best for about the past four games, it’s just the last two games we got caught out in.”
Killester and UL have identical records in the league standings, and Keenan stressed his side would be up for the challenge. “We have absolutely nothing to fear. We have no intention of giving up any of our titles too easy. We don’t want to lose the game, but we feel confident we can win it.”
UL Eagles will travel to Cork in confidence with a full strength squad at their disposal and are on the back of five consecutive wins in league and cup action.
However, their last defeat came against their opponents on Sunday, when they suffered a 93-81 defeat with Jermaine Turner causing UL plenty of problems.
UL’s record against Killester does not make pretty reading with the Munster side suffering four defeats to Mark Keenan’s side last season. “They have proven year in and year out that they are a team that will always compete well in this competition and at this venue,” said Eagles Head Coach Mark Bernsen. “As we prepare for the match it will be of utmost importance that both our offensive and defensive concepts be installed correctly so that we will be able to deal with Killester’s overall approach to the game.”
Ulster Elks are looking forward to their first ever appearance in a National Cup semi final but they will have to overturn a poor record against UCD Marian if they are to advance any further.
Despite suffering three defeats in the league to UCD this season, Elks Head Coach Deirdre Brennan believes her side can upset the odds and make it to a historic final.
“We are looking forward to the big occasion and another crack at UCD,” said Brennan. “We appreciate that we are underdogs and will have our work cut out against one of the oldest and best established basketball clubs in the country and one that was in the Superleague cup semi finals on a number of occasions. We will have to find a way to control their perimeter fire power as well as their tenacity on the offensive glass. They have great depth and can call on any number of players to score for them at any point in the game.
“We believe that if we are at full strength and perform well we can win the game despite our record against UCD this year.”
UCD are enjoying a hugely productive season, currently positioned in the third play-off spot in the Northern Conference, and their Head Coach Fran Ryan is hopeful the experience of reaching last year’s semi final will stand to them.
“We are hoping last years experience will help us deal with the importance of the game more so than if it was our first,” said Ryan. “We have huge respect for Elks who have got some marvelous results this season ; Belfast Star in the Cup; DCU Saints and Neptune in the league and hitting over 100 points against Saints which is a rare occurrence.”
“The two teams are very familiar with three games already played this season and the fact that two former UCD MARIAN players [ Elks duo Barry Drumm & Kevin Foley] had nearly 8 years with us, they know our players inside out.”
Women’s SuperLeague National Cup holders DCU Mercy face a potentially tricky clash against 11890 Killester if they are to maintain the defence of the crown they won for the first time last season.
Mercy proved too strong for Killester when the sides met earlier this season but their Head Coach Mark Ingle has reason to be wary after suffering a shock defeat to their opponents last February.
“They have improved since the start of the season and they produced a great display against Team Montenotte in their last game,” said Mercy Head Coach Mark Ingle. “It’s quite an intense rivalry and what happened earlier in the league will mean nothing on Sunday. They will see this as a once off opportunity and a great chance to reach the biggest day in Irish basketball.
“Caroline Flynn, Julie Kavanagh and Ciara Flaherty have bedded in very well to their squad,” added Ingle. “They have improved immensely and the manner of their win over Oblate Dynamos in the last round was extremely impressive. They are in the perfect position to cause an upset but we will not be complacent. Winning the cup last season was a great moment in the history of our club and we don’t want to relinquish that trophy too easily.”
11890 Killester are boosted by the return of Elaine Stone, Ali Maguire and Hannah Fraser, while Kate Gillen, Fiona Ward and Fiona Carrick face a race against time to be fit for the weekend.
“I know we have been written off by most around the league and maybe rightly so if you look at the league form but my players and I firmly believe that there is a reason we play these games,” said Killester Head Coach Mark Grennell. “Mercy have managed to assemble some talented players over the last few years but we have to believe we can put in a performance on the day and who knows.”
Team Montenotte Hotel Cork, who have undertaken the task of hosting the semi finals, will be hoping familiar territory will be enough when they take on Waterford Wildcats.
Montenotte boast an unblemished record this season, seven wins in league and cup action, but Head Coach Mark Scannell is well aware of the pitfalls of semi final clashes.
“They have brought Kate Maher in and she will be a huge help,” said Scannell. “She will bring a wealth of experience and they have some really talented players like Sinead Deegan, Cathy Kavanagh and Christine O’Gorman. I know some of their players first hand from the Irish set-up so I know what they can do.
“I have a lot of time for Wildcats,” he added. “They have fantastic cup pedigree and have been in two of the last three cup finals so we are going to be more than cautious. It’s often said that league form goes out the window but that’s the way it is. Hopefully, the fact we have had games in the Neptune Stadium this season will stand to us on Sunday.”
Waterford Head Coach Sean O’Regan knows the size of the task facing his side, with Montonnotte unbeaten this season. “It is going to be very tough against them. They have gone on from their success last year and are looking very strong. The key for us will be to try to get our own game going and to try to break down their speed.” he said.
National Cup Semi Final’s Schedule Sunday, January 16th, Neptune Stadium Women’s SuperLeague National Cup Semi Final; Sunday 16th Jan 10:30; DCU Mercy (Dublin) V 11890 Killester (Dublin) Women’s SuperLeague National Cup Semi Final; Sunday 16th Jan 12:30; Team Montenotte Hotel Cork (Cork) v Waterford Wildcats (Waterford) Men’s SuperLeague National Cup Semi Final; Sunday 16th Jan 14:30; Ulster Elks (Belfast) V UCD Marian (Dublin) Men’s SuperLeague National Cup Semi Final; Sunday 16th Jan 16:30; UL Eagles (Limerick) V 11890 Killester (Dublin)
National Cup Semi Final’s Saturday January 15th, Parochial Hall Under 18 Women’s National Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 10:00; AOS Security Glanmire (Cork) V St.Josephs (Limerick) Under 18 Women’s National Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 12:00; Claregalway (Galway) V Meteors (Dublin) Senior Women’s Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 14:00; UL (Limerick) V Tralee Imperials (Kerry) Senior Women’s Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 16:00; Meteors (Dublin) V Ulster Rockets (Belfast) Under 20 Women’s National Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 18:00; St.Marys (Kerry) V Waterford Wildcats (Waterford) Under 20 Women’s National Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 20:00; AOS Security Glanmire (Cork) V Tralee Imperials (Kerry)
National Cup Semi Final’s Saturday, January 15th, Neptune Stadium Under 18 Men’s National Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 10:00; St.Marys (Kerry) V Tolka Rovers (Dublin) Under 18 Men’s National Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 12:00; Ballincollig (Cork) V Templeogue (Dublin) Senior Men’s Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 14:00; CHM Ballon (Dublin) V St.Vincents (Dublin) Senior Men’s Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 16:00; Titans (Galway) V St.Marys (Kerry) Under 20 Men’s National Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 18:00; Blue Demons Cork) V Swords (Dublin) Under 20 Men’s National Cup Semi Final; Saturday 15th Jan 20:00; Neptune (Cork) V Maree (Galway)
TICKET PRICES SEMI FINALS Neptune Stadium Saturday 15th; Child €5, Student €7.50 , Adult €10 (One ticket will allow for supporters to switch from both venues on the Saturday) Sunday 16th; Child €5, Student €7.50 , Adult €10
FINALS National Basketball Arena Friday 28th; Child €5, Student €7.50, Adult €10 Saturday 29th; Child €5, Student €7.50, Adult €10 Saturday 29th; Child €5, Student €7.50, Adult €10 Sunday 30th; Child €5, Student €10, Adult €15Follow TheCork.ie (The Online Newspaper for Cork, Ireland) on social media