Courtyard Liffey Celtics are the Hula Hoops Women’s Paudie O’Connor National Cup Champions for 2019 thanks to a 91-66 win over Singleton SuperValu Brunell at the National Basketball Arena.
It’s a maiden win for the Leixlip women and the first time the Cup goes back to Kildare since the bonfires burned in Castledermot in 1988. Celtics were happy to set up shop at the three-point line in the opening quarter and rattled off five triples, three of them from 19-year-old MVP Sorcha Tiernan – who finished the game with 22 points. The Ireland International managed seven points in the 2017 final as Celtics failed to halt Glanmire’s four-in-a-row campaign: two years on, she had 19 points by half time.
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“That loss hurts a little less now,” said Tiernan - the games’ MVP. “We’ve learned a lot in the last few years and we were ready for it today. We had the Under 18’s win as well this weekend and I think I was more nervous for them. We’ll celebrate and get back to training on Tuesday.”
Brunell trailed 19-13 for the first quarter despite huge work rate under the boards from Madelyn Ganser, Amy Waters and Linda Rubene. They had guile too as Danielle O’Leary and Tricia Byrne were the main scoring threats, and a whopping 23-point third quarter made it game on going into the last. Karen Mealey protected Celtics’ double-digit lead in the fourth quarter and Ailbhe and Aine O’Connor ran themselves to a standstill. Having faced off against the Dwyers in 2017, they saw what it meant for sisters to win at the Arena, and they finished it out in style, 91-66, to remain unbeaten this season.
The Women’s Division One National Cup title is winging its way to Galway meanwhile, after the unbeaten Maree saw home an absolute thriller against Ulster University Elks. An MVP performance from Tiernan’s international teammate, Dayna Finn, was the difference down the stretch and she, along with the experience and talent of Claire Rockall helped keep Maree’s noses in front at crucial points in the game. It wasn’t easy though, as Aoife Callaghan, Kollyns Scarbrough and Enya Maguire shot the lights out in the Arena, and despite tying the game level with the clock ticking towards the final minute, Finn and Catherine Connaire had the final saw to win out on a scoreline of 82-76.
Defending champions, DCU Mercy, retained their Hula Hoops U20 Women’s National Cup title in superb fashion this afternoon, seeing off the challenge of a gritty and up-and-coming young Portlaoise Panthers side 62-52. A combined 50-point contribution from Ireland internationals Rachel Huijsdens and Bronagh Power Cassidy (also teammates of both Tiernan and Finn) was the difference on the day, as they not only led the way on the scoring, but also were key on the defensive end to stop the threat of Portlaoise’s Claire Melia, Gillian Wheeler and Sarah Fleming.
The first game of the day meanwhile saw Moycullen claim the Hula Hoops U18 Men’s National Cup after a huge, 68-59 point victory over Belfast Star. A superb third quarter performance from Moycullen and MVP Paul Kelly led them home to victory, despite the shooting prowess of CJ Fulton and Adam Ryan.
“It’s been a long year of preparation but we’ve reached our goal of what we wanted. The lads won Under 14, Under 16 and Under 17 All-Irelands so it’s been gearing up to this,” said Moycullen head coach Dylan Cunningham after the game.