Basketball

PREVIEW: Basketball Ireland Men’s and Women’s Super Leagues

PREVIEW: Basketball Ireland Men’s and Women’s Super Leagues

With both the Basketball Ireland Men’s and Women’s Super Leagues now firmly underway, there have been some big losses suffered by heavyweight teams so far in both leagues. 

Two Galway teams took the headlines last week as Maree women won their first ever Super League game by beating powerhouse Glanmire by just three points. In Dublin, Moycullen caused a big shock by upsetting Killester in the IWA after a big late run and some brilliant defense. Below we’ll look ahead to this week’s games in both leagues and keep a lookout on the storylines to follow as there’s no doubt we are set to enjoy another enthralling season.

Men’s Super League Weekend Preview

Coughlan C&S Neptune (2-0) vs UCD Marian (1-0) – Saturday, Neptune Stadium, 7pm 

After just two weeks of the Men’s Super League, only three undefeated teams remain. This match up sees Neptune (2-0) face UCD Marian (1-0) in Cork. Neptune have started the season brilliantly under new player/coach Lehmon Colbert as a comprehensive win over Killorglin in week one was followed up by a strong win on the road against Maree. Spaniard Nils Sabata has been taking the plaudits so far with two big games, averaging 22.5 points per game so far and slowing him down will definitely be on UCD’s mind. UCD Marian had a bye week last week, so they’ve had two weeks to build up to this game after their dramatic comeback win away to Tralee on the opening night of the season. In the win over Tralee, Mike Garrow looked to be back in top form but it was the play of Neil Baynes and Barry Drumm that ultimately stole the win for UCD. Coach Liapakis will always preach defense first and that will provide an interesting style clash this weekend. Neptune come into the game averaging 88.5 points while Marian only gave up 72 points to Tralee. If the game is high scoring, the advantage will be with the home team who won this same fixture last season. A low scoring tight contest could favour UCD. 

DBS Éanna (2-0) vs Garvey’s Tralee Warriors (1-1) – Saturday, Colaiste Éanna, 7pm

DBS Éanna - the only other unbeaten team this season - will face their biggest test against last season’s league champions Tralee. Éanna couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year as they faced Dublin Lions in their opening Super League game and then a Killorglin team still coming together under a new coach. Two assured displays have Éanna top of the league and they have only given up 57.5 points per game so far. This weekend provides a very different challenge though, as Tralee come in off the back of a great win against Belfast Star at home. Paul Dick and Eoin Quigley bounced back and provided a lot of energy while the American duo of Jumper and Lawton both brought a lot to the table in different ways. Jumper in particular is much more settled into the Irish league than he was last year when he joined Tralee mid way through the season. This weekend there are some very interesting matchups to watch out for, with the face-off between Stefan Zecevic and Daniel Jokubaitis in particular one to watch. Tralee have more depth but Éanna have a strong core and home advantage in what should be a great contest. 

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Pyrobel Killester (1-1) vs Belfast Star (1-1) – Saturday, IWA Clontarf, 7pm 

Two teams with matching records of 1-1 come in for a must win game early in the season. Neither will want to be 1-2 after just three weeks. Killester are coming in off a shock loss at home to Moycullen. Leading by 11 heading into the 4th at home against a team not expected to challenge for top honours, the expectation would be that Killester would see the game out. Their offense struggled though and they managed just nine points in the final quarter as Moycullen stole the game. Without the services of an American for the opening two weeks, had they gone 2-0 they would have been in excellent position. Instead, they now face a very difficult game against a Belfast Star team who have already beaten Templeogue this season. Tomas Fernandez has settled in well for Killester averaging 24.5 points a game. The worry though remains in how the dual point guard approach will work, Ciaran Roe has had back to back games with less than five points which is unusual for a player of his calibre. For Belfast, last weekend was always going to be a struggle as Tralee had their backs to the walls after an opening round loss. Coach Adrian Fulton would likely have taken 1-1 out of the hardest opening schedule in the league – and it doesn’t get easier this week with a trip to the IWA. American Delaney Blaylock has settled in well and is providing a strong scoring touch but the worry for Belfast will be the relatively limited production of Serbian big man who’s averaging 5.5 points in his opening two games. He could be the key to Star’s title aspirations as they need one more scoring option to support their Irish trio of Fultin, Quinn and Cairns. This weekend’s game will see two key battles, the first will see Ciaran Roe and CJ Fulton going head to head. Fulton has started the season in fantastic form but this week he’s faced by one of the toughest defenders in the country in Roe. Another massive battle will be between two 6’10 big men Tomas Fernandez and Keelan Cairns. Unusually for two men that big, it will be a face up battle with both being strong shooters from the perimeter. Star’s X factor could be Delaney Blaylock and unless Killester have an American in by the weekend, Star could have an advantage heading to Dublin. 

Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin (0-2) vs Maree (1-1) – Saturday, Killorglin SC, 7.15pm

There’s no place like home will be the feeling for Killorglin after two road defeats to start the season. Coach Colin O’Reilly has a big task on his hands to integrate so many new players and get settled into his new surroundings. A packed house and strong local support will be a big help as Killorglin face familiar foes in Maree. Both teams had regular battles in Division One over recent seasons and despite the high turnover in players, this will still be one both teams are excited for. Averaging just 66 points a game, Killorglin will need to find a way to score this weekend. Allen Thomas can score but he needs help and eyes will be looking to both Colin O’Reilly and Pranas Skurdauskas to contribute more scoring. Last season, Killorglin were very tough at home so they will be certainly looking for their first win this weekend. Maree came away empty handed at home to a tough Neptune team last weekend, and will be hoping to bounce back well. Darin Johnson looked a threat again and he was well supported by the Irish trio of Stephen Cummins, Ken Hansberry and Eoin Rockall. Defensively though, they couldn’t limit Neptune and not many teams will win games at home this year giving up 89 points. Killorglin look to have more offensive weapons available to them but they have yet to click, Maree on the other hand are so familiar with each other as their core have been together for a few years. If Killorglin can gel at home they will fancy a win but Maree are experienced and a tough team so nothing will come easily. 

Moycullen (1-1) vs DCU Saints (1-1) – Saturday, NUIG Kingfisher, 7.30pm 

This is another battle between teams who have split their opening games. Moycullen were the story of Round 2 with their upset of Killester in Dublin. Despite their offensive struggles, they managed to stay in the game and ultimately stole it in the 4th quarter. John Cunningham will be delighted with Grant Olsen’s 21 point contribution and the character shown by his team. Two games into the season though and Moycullen have yet to break the 60 point mark which will be a major concern. Their defense has been good but in order for them to get some extra wins they will need to find a way to get a second consistent scorer that they can rely heavily on. DCU bounced back from their opening loss to Killester with a narrow win over Dublin Lions. Mike Bonaparte was the difference in the game with an impressive double double 31 point and 17 rebound performance. Charlie Coombes and Graham Brannelly looked sharp and both scored well and helped to cover the absence of Martins Provizors. In Galway this week, Bonaparte could again be a tough match up for Moycullen and, if Provizors returns, DCU will want to put the ball inside constantly. At the other end, Moycullen will likely try and force some turnovers against an inexperienced Super League point guard for DCU. The Kingfisher is a tough gym to go to, but DCU will see this as a must win game if they are to target a top 6 finish again. 

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Griffith College Templeogue (0-1) vs Abbey Seals Dublin Lions (0-2) – Saturday, Nord Anglia International School, 7.30pm 

This is a battle of the final two teams without a win this year. Despite that, the teams come in with very different goals and expectations. Templeogue come into the game off a bye week and they will be itching to get back on court and remedy their opening weekend overtime loss to Belfast Star. Despite leading by 15 points, Templeogue failed to capitalise and were made to pay by Belfast. They go into this Southside derby in a new home gym for the first time and they will be hoping to get off to the perfect start there. The inside duo of Jason Killeen and Darren Townes should cause major problems for Dublin Lions inside. Lions will need to make this a track meet and hope to shoot the ball well in order to have a chance at an upset. The challenge is that an up tempo game also suits Lorcan Murphy who had 34 points in his first game and Templeogue also have incredible depth to their team this year. It’s hard to see past Templeogue getting this first win of the year and their title chase back on track.  

Women’s Super League Weekend Preview 

Liffey Celtics (0-1) vs Pyrobel Killester (1-0) – Saturday, Leixlip Amenities, 7pm 

Despite only being in the second week of the season, Liffey Celtics are already faced with a must win home game. Coming off the back of an opening week defeat at home, it would put pressure on their title defense if they were to drop two home games to start the year. Last weekend they got behind early and were never able to fully push DCU Mercy. Darby Maggard showed some of her promise in the defeat to DCU as she scored 17 but coach Laura Mullally felt her team overall had to do a better job of getting to the basket and trying to earn some trips to the free throw line. Last year, both of Liffey’s American players were great athletes capable of getting to the basket and it will be interesting to see if their replacements will be able to do the same this season – and if second American Kylee Smith will be fit to play this weekend after missing out last Saturday with injury. Killester came into this season as a bit of an unknown package. They finished last season as the form team in the country at the end of the regular season but significant changes in personnel left question marks over the group. Coach Karl Kilbride will have enjoyed his team’s first weekend performance as they beat a good Brunell team by seven points at home. Strong scoring from American Adella Randle El was supported brilliantly by Ella McCloskey who had an incredible double double with 16 points and 20 rebounds. The main concern for Killester will be that three of their players played all 40 minutes of the game and only seven players played. Injuries have been an issue for Killester in recent seasons and an injury to any of their core group could be disastrous. This weekend though provides a great opportunity for Killester to build on their bright start. They will have fond memories of beating Liffey last season and will be hoping to deliver another body blow to the defending champions. 

Maxol WIT Wildcats (1-0) vs Fr Mathews (1-0) – Saturday, Mercy Gym Waterford, 7pm 

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Last weekend saw both teams comfortably win their opening games and it is hard to know exactly what we learned from either game. Fr Mathews had good scoring performances from their three stars with Shannon Brady leading the way with 21, while Chantell Alford and Grainne Dwyer combined for 34. Coach James Fleming would likely be most happy with his defense as Marble City Hawks only managed to shoot 33% from the floor against them. This week, they will face a sterner test in a tough trip to face Wildcats. Wildcats were completely dominant last weekend against IT Carlow, winning out by an incredible 52-point margin. Maria Palarino scored 28 in her debut in Ireland and showed what made her a stand out player in St Francis Brooklyn in the NCAA. The question that needs to be answered this weekend is will WIT benefit from homecourt advantage or will the fact that Fr Mathews have greater continuity from last season mean they are more battle tested and ready for what should be a great game.

Ambassador UCC Glanmire (0-1) vs IT Carlow Basketball (0-1) – Sunday, Mardyke Arena UCC, 2.30pm

Two teams who dropped their opening game of the year will go head to head in Cork this Sunday. Mark Scannell will be disappointed his team lost their opening game to a Maree team making their Super League debut. That said, Oranmore has proved a tricky hunting ground in the Men’s Super League for many teams and the women will likely find it just as tough. Added in the fact that Maree’s star player Claire Rockall is so familiar with the Glanmire team having played with them for so many years and this was always a possibility. On the positive side Aine McKenna was excellent scoring 25 points and Amy Dooley showed promise inside grabbing 10 rebounds to go with her 7 points. It will worry Mark Scannell though that his Americans only combined for 13 points with Tatum Neubert only taking 4 shots in 26 minutes. It’s unlikely that this will happen again and this weekend’s home game is a perfect opportunity to get some confidence back. Carlow will not be relishing a trip to the Mardyke particularly against a Glanmire team hurting from week one. Carlow struggled offensively against WIT and it looks like a big issue for them. Kaitlyn Slagus showed potential with 22 points but only one other scorer had more than 2 points as Carlow only managed 36 points. In the Super League, with so many good teams, Carlow will have to find a way to generate some more offense if they are going to stay competitive and try and avoid relegation this season. 

Singleton SuperValu Brunell (0-1) vs Maree (1-0) – Sunday, Parochial Hall Cork, 2.45pm

Brunell return to the Parochial Hall in Cork to try and bounce back from their opening week defeat to Killester. Tricia Byrne showed her comfort level in her second season in Ireland with 17 points while young star Katie Walshe had a big display with 16 points. Coach Tom O’Halloran will need a better shooting performance from his Irish international guard Danielle O’Leary who struggled from the field against Killester. Going into the season the question was how big a loss Linda Rubene would be for Brunell and she was certainly missed in week one. Their opponents this weekend come in to the game in confident mood. Since entering the National League last year Maree are still yet to lose a game. This winning habit is something they will be looking to build upon this weekend. Carly McClendon’s influence could be seen last week with an impressive double double with 16 point and 16 rebounds. For Maree to win this game, they’ll need to control the inside battle and they have the players to do it with McClendon and Scally. With a Cork derby on the horizon next week with Glanmire, Brunell cannot afford to be playing catch up and need to win this weekend. 

DCU Mercy (1-0) vs Marble City Hawks (0-1) – Sunday, DCU, 3.30pm 

Coach Mark Ingle may have been delighted with his team’s opening round win over defending champions Liffey Celtics, but the experienced coach knows it was only one step on a long journey this season. Meredith Burkhall exploded into life in her debut season scoring 31 points and she was supported by her fellow American Ashley Russell who bagged 17. DCU have a depth to them with talent all over the floor. For star Irish guard Sarah Woods to not even feature in the top 3 scorers shows the level of scoring ability available to DCU. This week, they return to DCU for their home opener. Their opponents Marble City Hawks have a tough opening schedule as they move from Fr Mathews to a trip to DCU. Cassidy Williams will be looking to build upon her 20 points from Round 1, while Katie Fox will be looking to score more than the nine points she managed last week. Fox is often at her best when doing a small bit of everything, and last weekend she had an incredible 15 rebounds which is very unusual for a guard of her size. For Marble City to really push the top teams this season however, Fox may have to be less of a facilitator at times and more of a scorer to help lighten the load on Williams. This weekend may be a big ask for Hawks but if they can build a good performance it will stand to them in the coming weeks. 

 

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