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Puff Summers' Basketball Diary: 'Kieran Donaghy is just like Liam McHale, he is a basketball player first'

Basketball Diaries: A player's view of a season in the Super League

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Tralee Warriors' Kieran Donaghy. Photo by: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tralee Warriors' Kieran Donaghy. Photo by: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tralee Warriors' Kieran Donaghy. Photo by: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

I don't think Kieran Donaghy will be playing tomorrow when we go to Tralee Warriors, which is good because he is always a thorn in our side.

Instead Star will be in action for Austin Stacks in the Kerry football championship semi-final, which starts just two hours before our game.

On the court, Donaghy is not like a typical GAA player who just uses his force to barrel his way through everybody.

Instead, he's a basketball player first, and the way he thinks about the game is 100pc like a basketball player. He is strategic by looking for mismatches and trying to take advantage of them.

In that way Donaghy is very like Liam McHale, who I got to know first when I arrived from America to play in Ballina 15 years ago.

Liam and I would go for lunch a lot back then, and I used to pick his brains.

I was supposed to be the professional American who came over, but I would sit down, be quiet and listen carefully as this Irish legend taught me about how the game should be played.

But even without a player like McHale or Donaghy, there's enough to worry about against the Warriors tomorrow night.

Their coach John Dowling, who has a lot of big game experience with this team, has both coached and recruited well.

Their American, Aaron Calixte, is averaging damn-near 30 points a game and Eoin Quigley has made our Irish team, so they have nearly all the pieces you need.

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Tralee is what basketball should be in Ireland and it's always a treat to go down there and play in that atmosphere in front of their fans.

They do things right before the game with all the off-court stuff – the blaring music and the smoke machines help get the fans going.

It will be a tough ask to play in front of their rowdy crowd, especially when we are trying to bounce back after we lost three games in a row.

It's all about trying to drag our heads out of the mud with Templeogue now.

All three of those defeats have been close games, so every mistake that you made throughout those fixtures is magnified.

You start to think: 'if I hadn't turned the ball over here or if I made that three-pointer there, it might have made a difference to the game.'

First we lost the Cup game to Maree by two points, then Killester by five, and in the Neptune game, their rising star Cian Heaphy hit a three with four seconds left to win the game.

He absolutely murdered us last week in Cork – he's averaging 15 to 16 points a game – so he was an obvious choice for the Ireland squad in next week's EuroBasket qualifiers.

He is one of three uncapped players that have been selected for the new-look national side that coach Mark Keenan announced last Monday.

I will travel to Cyprus for the first game to assist Mark, who changed things up after our Irish captain Jason Killeen retired and CJ Fulton moved Stateside.

It will be a step up from our European Small Countries win to play Cyprus at that upper level next Thursday. We will feel the heat, if only because it's forecast to be 22 degrees Celsius in Nicosia.

But I won't see any bit of the sunlight there as I will be in my hotel room, looking at a whole lot of video in preparation for the Cypriots.

We'll hope we can shine on the court instead.


WEEKEND FIXTURES
SATURDAY
Men’s Super League –
Ballincollig v Éanna, Ballincollig Community School, 4.0; Maree v UCD Marian, NUIG Sports Centre, 7.0; DCU Saints v Moycullen, DCU Sports Complex, 7.0; Killester v Neptune, IWA Clontarf, 7.0; Killorglin v Belfast Star, Killorglin Sports Complex, 7.15; Tralee Warriors v Templeogue, Tralee Sports Complex, 7.30.
Women’s Super League – Trinity Meteors v Liffey Celtics, Trinity Sports Hall, 2.30; St Mary's v Killester, Castleisland CC, 6.0; Brunell v WIT Waterford Wildcats, Parochial Hall, 7.0.
Men’s Division 1 – IT Carlow v Killarney Cougars, Barrow Centre, 12.30; LYIT Donegal v Tolka Rovers, LYIT, 4.0; Malahide v Titans BC, Malahide Community School, 7.0; WIT Vikings v Limerick Sport Eagles, WIT College Hall, 7.0; EJ Sligo All-Stars v Dublin Lions, Mercy College, 7.30; Ulster University v Drogheda Wolves, UUJ, 7.30; Fr Mathews v Limerick Celtics, Fr Mathews Arena, 7.45.
Women’s Division 1 – LYIT Donegal Women v Limerick Sport Huskies, LYIT, 2.0; NUIG Mystics v Phoenix Rockets, NUIG Kingfisher, 3.0; Ulster University v Marble City Hawks, UUJ, 5.0; Portlaoise Panthers v Swords Thunder, St Mary's Hall, 6.0; Templeogue v Tipperary Knights, Nord Anglia International School, 7.0.
SUNDAY
Women’s Super League –
DCU Mercy v IT Carlow, DCU Arena, 2.30; Fr Mathews v Glanmire, Fr Mathews Arena, 3.30.
Men’s Division 1 – Demons v Portlaoise Panthers, Mardyke Arena, 3.0.
THURSDAY
Men’s Division 1 –
Killarney Cougars v Limerick Celtics, Presentation Gym Killarney, 8.0.


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