SLIGO ALL-STARS travelled to Donegal town to kick off their 2012-2013 league campaign in U-14 and U-16 Basketball.
This season, due to huge interest the club was in a position to enter two teams in the U-14 boys league. The second team is a developmental team and is made up of U-13 players who will all be eligible to play again next season in the same competition.
BOYS U.14: ALL STARS 79 DONEGAL 18
The first team to take to the floor was the U-14 boys team which contains a lot of the players who won and All-Ireland at Division 3 in this age group last year. Finnian Henry and Keith Frain were both unavailable to the squad and they were replaced by Mark Walsh and Diarmuid Harte.
The All-Stars boys showed their intent from the very beginning and had scored almost 30 points in the first quarter alone thanks to some great scores from Mark Walsh, Cormac Nugent and great team defense at the other end of the floor.
The All-Stars were able to give valuable minutes to the entire team and still ran out comfortable winners 79-18.
The second game of the day involved the U-16 girls who are coached by Sean Mc Gowan.
This team had a lot of debutants which meant Mc Gowan was usure as to what he could expect from them. What he mightn't have expected was how dominant one of those debutants would be. Emma Keaveney finished the game as Sligo's leading scorer with 12 points and as many rebounds. She displayed great composure and intelligence on the floor and will definitely be one to watch for the future.
The first half was a close fought encounter towards the end but Donegal had opened a lead that the All-Stars girls were struggling to close. Despite some lovely shooting from Meg Herrity (5 Pts) and Michaela Mahon (5 pts) the Donegal side showed a little more experience as they picked off the easier scores and finished the game with a 14 point victory.
Ellen Monaghan showed how her hard work during the summer is paying dividends as she tormented her opposite number on the defensive end and distributed the ball excellently on the offensive end.
Aisling Giblin too showed what she is capable of and she and her team mates will look forward to meeting the Donegal girls on their home patch later in the season.
DONEGAL U14 32 SLIGO ALL-STARS 29
The boys U-13 team was next up. This game proved to be the most exciting game of the day with Donegal winning by just 3 points in the end 32-29.
There is a great reason for the coaching staff in the All-Stars to be excited about this particular group as they fought relentlessly against a much bigger and more physical side. They are not afraid to take their man on with the ball and they love playing both ends of the floor.
Point guards Luke Sherlock and Daragh Connolly showed composure and skill way beyond their years and were unlucky with a number of shot attempts that would have put a different gloss on the scoreboard.
Conor Keaveney got his name on the score sheet in his first ever competitive game and he demonstrated great quickness and alertness on the defensive end.
BOYS U16 SLIGO 64 DONEGAL 39
There is a lot expected of this group of boys as they have competed strongly in this competition over the last number of years. They won and AllIreland B title in 2011 at the U-14 level and were narrowly defeated by the runners up in the A final in the group stages.
This team boasts two members of the current Ireland U-16 squad in Philip Hamilton and Cillian Gallagher.
Cillian is a relative latecomer to the game but such is his work ethic and natural ability, he caught the eye of the national coaches at a summer trial.
The game was a closely fought contest for the first quarter with the All-Stars looking a little "ring rusty" but the Sligo boys held a 2 point lead into the second in which they flexed a little muscle and pulled 14 points ahead by half time. Only one of the travelling team seemed to be at the races in the first half and that was Cian Lally who hauled in 14 of his 21 points in this period. The Donegal team struggled with his aggressive penetration on offense and his smooth finishing gave the All-Stars a comfortable lead at the half.
"It's a good thing to come away with a 25 point win considering our below par performance" remarked coach Shane O' Meara after the game. "There definitely were flashes of brilliance which is exciting but we need to up our intensity a lot to be considered contenders for an All-Ireland at this age level".