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Thrillers expected in National Cup semis

After several seasons where a seemingly unsurpassable bridge existed between the best and the rest, the parity that currently exists between Irish women's basketball's top teams will be on full show during tonight's National Cup semi-finals in Cork.

Defending champions UL Huskies, who at one stage last year had gone over 30 games unbeaten stretching back over a 16-month period, have lost twice already this season and face, in tonight's first semi-final, a Killester side that won when they last met.

Following that will be the meeting of DCU Mercy and Team Montenotte Hotel, two of the great rivals of the past 10 years, who between them shared five straight National Cup titles from 2007 until 2011.

Both games promise to be of the highest standard and, with nothing to pick between the sides, thrilling and tense encounters.

For UL, so used to winning and currently going for the three in row, the task will be one of picking themselves up off the floor after a devastating home league loss last weekend against Montenotte.

It was their second loss of the season, having fallen to Killester earlier in the season.

In that contest, the athletic combination of Michelle Clarke and Candace Bond combined for 54 of Killester's 76 points.

HERO

Whether they can repeat that feat given the return of UL's defensive stopper Louise Galvin remains to be seen, but Killester have others who could step up and fill the roles of hero for a day.

Most likely among them is the Basketball Ireland Women's Premier League Player of the Month for December, Laura Pardo. Standing over 6ft tall, Pardo is a major force inside for Killester and notably only contributed 12 points in their defeat of Huskies while getting closer to 20 in games recently.

Her battle with fellow Huskies talented inside player Aoife McDermott will be crucial.

Meanwhile, not much can be said about the meeting between DCU Mercy and Team Montenotte that has not been heard before.

Two great teams with some of the legendary names in Irish women's basketball like Peat, Dwyer, Woods and Maguire all involved. These sides know each other all too well, with a game between them rarely leaving more than a couple of points in favour of one or the other.

They currently sit in first and second place in the league table, with Montenotte just ahead of Mercy due to the number of games played, but with Mercy having already beaten their Cork-based rivals.

The latest battle between two of the great guards to ever lace them up in Lindsay Peat of Mercy and Niamh Dwyer of Montenotte will once again be both a treat to watch and instrumental in deciding the outcome of the game.


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