TWELVE months ago Tralee Imperials, travelled to Tallaght, hopeful of completing a hat-trick of National titles in Cup competitions.
They returned home, empty handed, obviously extremely disappointed, but most of all frustrated with the timing of the three finals on the same day with some players involved and participating in all three deciders. In the circumstances it cannot have been easy to pick up the pieces at the start of this season, but the manner in which they have performed throughout the season to date, both in the League and Cup competitions, confirms the type of character, which the squad possesses and has raised expectations a lot in terms of their prospects of capturing the Senior Women's National Cup title in Tallaght next Saturday afternoon.
They will face Oblate Dynamos from Drimnagh in Dublin and every indication is that they will provide stubborn and formidable opposition. A look at the League Table and the results to date this season, would suggest that Imperials will enter the fray as favourites, but Cup and League are entirely different challenges and propositions and Dynamos'unexpected semi-final win over NUIG Mystics, indicates clearly that they have given priority to the Cup illustrated by the fact that they have bolstered their squad with quite a few experienced players who in recent years have played in the Superleague and have added greatly to the prospect of they providing a significant physical presence under both boards Imperials by contrast will endeavour to play with a high tempo, and inject pace into proceedings from the outset.
In this regard the ability of Meabh Barry, Deirdre Geaney and Sinead Mackessey to unlock defensive formations, with some extremely incisive and resourceful play, will probably be the platform on which the Tralee combination will hope to build a match winning formula. Central to their prospects also will be the input of point guard Lynn Jones, who joined Imperials at the start of this season having previously enjoyed Cup success with St. Paul's Killarney.
Indeed, her input has been a significant factor in terms of the team's success to date this season. Her leadership and craft along with that of Linda Raymond, in a line-up which is hugely talented, but relatively short of experience, could well be the key which will unlock the door to silverware in Tallaght next Saturday afternoon. It's going to be a contrast in styles and approach, but while Dynamos' resilience should ensure that they will remain in contention for long periods, Imperials should have more pace and stamina to see them first, over the finishing line this time round.