There’s a tough weekend ahead for many teams this weekend as, with the Hula Hoops Cup semi finals weekend coming up next week, the first weekend in January can often be a trap weekend particularly after an extended Christmas break for some teams.
Women’s Super League
The Women’s Super League is back this weekend after a two-week break for Christmas. DCU Mercy still lead the charge in the New Year sitting in first place six points ahead of their closest rivals. With the last games before Christmas having been played on December 15th, this has been a long break for the teams and this weekend will provide a good test to see how teams dealt with the time off.
Fr Mathews v WIT Wildcats (Saturday, Fr Mathews Arena, 17.00)
Fr Mathews would have been one of the teams welcoming the extended Christmas break as it gave star player Grainne Dwyer a chance to recover fully from the injury that limited her pre-Christmas. Last year’s Champions Trophy winners are currently sitting in the final playoff spot, although they sit just one game behind the three teams tied in second place. Wildcats haven’t lost since early in November and their good run of league form will be tested after the extended break. In the first meeting between the teams back in October, Wildcats just sneaked home with a three-point victory. With the playoff spots so tight heading into the second half of the year, games like this could have a major impact on who is contending for trophies in March.
Marble City Hawks v DCU Mercy (Saturday, O’Loughlins GAA, 17.00)
Marble City Hawks will be hoping that 2020 is a fresh start to a league campaign that saw them go without a win for the entire first half of the campaign. A home game starts off the new year for the Hawks, but they won’t be excited to see the league leaders DCU Mercy coming to town. With coach Mark Ingle prepping his team for a big Cup semi final in Cork next weekend too, they should expect nothing easy from the Dubliners. Hawks can hope that Mercy might have one eye on next week and that they can sneak into contention in the game but on recent form to date in the league, it’s unlikely.
Maree v Singleton Supervalu Brunell (Saturday, Calasanctius College, 17.00)
Maree were perhaps the surprise for some of the first half of the season. Playing in their first season at Super League level though, they’ve certainly proven that they belong in the top flight and are currently sitting in second spot. They are also the only team to date to give DCU Mercy a loss this season. The surprising part is that Maree have done so with just one American and with one of their Irish star players Dayna Finn studying abroad – though she will make a return to the court this coming weekend. Liffey Celtics have been the only team so far this year to win in Galway and Maree will be expecting to defend their home court again this weekend. Brunell meanwhile have had a tough first half to the year. That said, they have a Cup semi final to look forward to next weekend and this could be the major confidence boost they need. Amy Waters has been a big loss for them but as Greta Tamasauskaite has settled in, she has shown her capabilities. Greta is averaging 16 points a game and shooting an incredible 50% from three-point range. Sitting four games out of the playoff spots Brunell need to start winning now, although their attention may be more focused on next weekend’s Hula Hoops Cup semi-final.
Pyrobel Killester v Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics (Saturday, IWA Clontarf, 19.00)
Killester are another team gearing up for a big Cup semi final matchup next weekend and they will relish a shot at defending champions Liffey Celtics this coming Saturday in a well-established rivalry. The matchup last year in Clontarf was an amazing shootout as Killester dealt Liffey their first loss of the year. This year, Liffey have struggled a lot more and the injury to Sorcha Tiernan didn’t help matters. Killester sit only one game ahead of Liffey and a win this weekend would help create separation between the teams in the fight for playoff spots. Liffey are out of the cup and know that the playoffs are their only route to silverware this season so they will likely be the hungrier of the two teams and with last year’s American, Briana Green, coming back in for the Kildare club, it should be a great game with huge playoff implications.
IT Carlow v Ambassador UCC Glanmire (Sunday, Barrow Centre, 14.00)
Despite a shaky first month to the season, Glanmire are now right up there with DCU Mercy as the top form team in the country. This weekend, they head to Carlow for some fine tuning ahead of next weekend’s Cup semi-final with Killester. Mark Scannell has been in this situation so many times that Glanmire will expect a big performance this weekend as they build momentum for the cup. Carlow have struggled since their one victory over Marble City in early November. They know that if they can find a way to pick up a second win it will likely avoid them being bottom at the end of the year. This weekend is a big ask for Carlow, but they have had some good performances at home, and it will likely be in Carlow that they will pick up any upset win.
Men’s Super League
The Men’s Super League is now at Round 14 for most teams as they face into the championship run-in. Teams looking to make a move to the top are now starting to run out of time, and each win or loss in the coming weeks will have a big say on where the league title goes.
Abbey Seals Dublin Lions v Griffith College Templeogue (Saturday, Colaiste Bride, 17.30)
Griffith College Templeogue likely didn’t expect to have a 7-6 record by Christmas at the start of the season, and they would have been disappointed with their performance against UCD Marian before the break. A local derby gives them a good opportunity to get going before their Cup semi final clash next weekend. They face a Dublin Lions team that are still looking for their first win of the year. Lions have pushed numerous teams but have just come up short. In their match against DCU over Christmas, it looked like Lions have gone back to a largely Irish team and they will be hoping for player development for the rest of the year while still trying to get that elusive first win.
Belfast Star v Pyrobel Killester (Saturday, De La Salle, 18.30)
Belfast Star sit top the table since just before Christmas. They haven’t come as a surprise this year and Adrian Fulton has yet again produced a well-coached balanced team. Star’s home form has been incredible so far with their only loss coming in the Cup. Belfast’s win over Tralee just before Christmas showed their championship calibre and it will just be a matter of whether they can consistently pull out similar results for the rest of the year even when all eyes aren’t on them. Killester have been the shock of the season so far and, unfortunately for the Dubliners, not in a good way. A team that was identified by many during preseason as a title contender currently sit one game outside the relegation spots with a record of 5-8. Injuries have crippled the defending Cup champions as well as playing without an American for the start of the season. The Northsiders have lost five league games in a row and they will be desperate to put an end to that slide immediately. Heading to Belfast is a tough ask, but Killester’s pride should see them try and drag Star into a tough battle.
DCU Saints v Moycullen (Saturday, St Vincent’s Glasnevin, 19.00)
Moycullen earned a lifeline for their season last weekend with a big home win against Killester. They are now just one game behind Killester, and they can still scrape their way out of the relegation spots. Wins will be hard to come by though and this weekend will be one of their better chances as they head to DCU Saints. Saints are just two spots ahead of Moycullen and have yet to beat any of the top teams. Michael Bonaparte is having another great season for the Dubliners, but he isn’t getting consistent help from the guards surrounding him. Moycullen can be streaky and shoot well on the road, so this could be a great battle. A win for DCU would give them plenty of breathing room for the rest of the year, but it won’t come easily.
UCD Marian v Coughlan C&S Neptune (Saturday, UCD, 19.00)
UCD Marian have dropped just two home games this year and are a tricky proposition at home for any team. Neptune come into this weekend’s game after a tough overtime home loss to Maree last weekend – off the back of an overtime loss to Killorglin the weekend before - which have severely dented their title ambitions. Coach Lehmon Colbert was public in his displeasure at his team last week and he will expect a big response this weekend. Neptune coasted for large parts of the game between the teams in Cork earlier in the year before UCD almost stole it late on. A loss for either team creates separation from the top teams and could prove fatal to any title aspirations either has. This should be a cracking game with so much on the line.
Garvey’s Tralee Warriors v DBS Éanna (Saturday, Tralee Sports Complex, 19.30)
The clash of the weekend comes this weekend in Tralee as DBS Éanna hit the road to take on the defending champions. DBS Éanna’s title credentials have been questioned numerous times this year and they have largely come up with positive answers. Their imports have set them apart this year, but it will be the play of their Irish contingent this weekend that will determine how well they do. Éanna at their best get contributions from Dan Heaney and Neil Lynch in particular. Tralee isn’t an easy environment to go and perform in though, so it may come down to how those Irish players react in a pressure environment to see just how well Éanna can do. Tralee will be hurting after their loss to Belfast just before Christmas and they won’t easily forget their big loss to Éanna in Dublin either earlier in the year. Tralee have a significant size and depth advantage, but Éanna have a strong core who play exceptionally together. The stage is set for what should be one of the games of the season.