Friday 15 December 2017

Basketball: Kelleher braced for huge final test against seasoned UL

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

An 8.45 tip-off on a Friday night has an unfamiliar feel about it, but this evening's Superleague National Cup final -- Irish basketball's showpiece event -- should live up to the billing.

UCC Demons have had the upper hand on UL Eagles in the Superleague all season, but the cliche about form going out the window in a one-off final should ring true.

The Cork side appear to have the edge after a strong performance against Neptune in the semi-final, but UL coach Mark Keenan has been there and done it for Killester, and his side is well-schooled in the big collisions.

Demons coach Paul Kelleher is wary of his opponents' ability to handle the occasion.

"UL Eagles have a vast amount of experience -- all but one of their first six players have years of experience of playing in the USA in college," he said.

"Rob Lynch and Matt Hall are previous winners, while Rob Taylor and Jason Killeen have European experience, so this tells you the magnitude of the task ahead of us.

"We are going to have to work if we are to get the desired result."


Keenan is in familiar territory, having won the 2010 title and suffered a shock defeat to UCD Marian last season as manager of Killester.

When Demons defeated UL, the Limerick side did not have American Robert Taylor, who on his day is a serious threat going to the hoop. Carlton Cuff could be the Demons ace given the unenviable task of stopping Taylor's threat.

Eagles also have 6'10" Killeen and he will match up with Demons' American Shawn Atupem.

The contributions of UCC Demons captain Shane Coughlan and Niall O'Reilly will be key to the result.

Coughlan is an outstanding leader who likes nothing better than showing his skills on the big stage and he still holds the record of being the only Irish player to be awarded MVP in consecutive cup finals -- in 2004 and '05. If they can hit form, then the Cork side can take victory.

Holders DCU Mercy will be up against it in their attempt to win a third Women's Superleague National Cup title on the trot as they take on a UL side who haven't been beaten in over a year.

The Dubliners' coach Mark Ingle wants fans to "expect the unexpected", but it's hard to see past the league leaders.

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