Saturday 24 March 2018

Thunder pursuit of a double remains on course

Paul Byrne

A week after the excitement of winning the National Cup Final, Griffith Swords Thunder returned to the bread and butter of the Super League as they came up against struggling Eanna.

Swords Thunder 80 Eanna 68

Thunder coach Dave Baker knew that this game had the potential to be a banana skin and had warned his players to regain their focus following the highs of the previous weekend.

The Swords outfit knew that only a victory would suffice following Templeogue's impressive victory over UCC Demons in their most recent outing, and due to the exertions of the National Cup decider, Baker decided to freshen up his side for this crucial game. That meant star players Isaac Westbrooks, Jose Maria Gil Narbon and Justin Goldsborough started on the bench, with Paul Caffrey, Alex Calvo and Oleksandr Dolenko all coming in for a rare start.

Thunder showed no hangover from their National Cup victory early on, with Calvo and Dolenko dominating proceedings as Eanna struggled to cope with Swords' intensity.

The first quarter saw Thunder build up an eight-point lead and they continued to forge clear in the second quarter, with Gil Narbon coming into the action to shoot an excellent three which helped his side build up a 46-27 half-time lead.

It was all going to plan for Swords up to this point, but the third quarter wasn't quite as comfortable for the north Dublin side as Eanna began to find the basket from all angles and dragged themselves back into the game.

Suddenly Thunder's 19-point half-time lead was reduced to just six as Eanna sensed an upset could be on the cards.

However, with Gil Narbon and Westbrooks now back on court, Thunder regrouped and crucially scored the next basket to extend their lead once more.

The fourth quarter was another close affair, but Swords' greater experience helped them keep Eanna at arm's length as the excellent Gil Narbon scored his 26th point of the game despite not playing for as long as he usually would.

Conroy Baltimore weighed in with 12 points and Alex Calvo finished up with 10 points to his name.

When the final buzzer sounded, Thunder were 12 clear and crucially had narrowed the gap to league leaders Templeogue to just three points - and as the weeks go on and both teams keep on winning, it looks like next month's top-of-the table clash could prove to be a huge game for both sides.

Baker was delighted with a job well done and to have gotten past this potential banana skin.

'We had talked about the importance of this game earlier on in the week, given our exertions and the emotion that goes with winning a big game like the National Cup Final. We had a good night on Sunday evening, but come Monday all our focus was back on the Super League and we were determined to keep up the pressure on Templeogue.

'I wanted to freshen up the team a little bit as we've had some tough games recently, so I brought Paul, Alex and Oleksandr into the team and they all did very well.

'We dominated the first half of the game, and although we let it slip a bit in the third quarter I thought we saw the game out well and ended up winning quite comfortably.

'The only negative for me was Jose rolling his ankle in the fourth quarter. He's a big, big player for us, so we are hoping he hasn't injured himself too bad.'

Fingal Independent