DBS Éanna booked their spot in the Hula Hoops Men’s Pat Duffy National Cup semi finals in Cork in January thanks to a stunning 63-78 point road win over last year’s semi-finalists, Belfast Star.
Éanna were in control from early on, with Josh Wilson dominating offensively, while Stefan Zecevic chipped in with some big scores early on to see them into 12-25 lead at the end of the first, and a 30-43 half time lead. Despite a superb game from Star’s American, Delaney Blaylock – who finished out with 26 points – to see them close the gap back to 10 points at one stage in the second half, they just couldn’t contain an extremely in-form Zecevic and Wilson, and with Neil Lynch adding some big scores down the stretch to see them home to a memorable Cup win.
Speaking afterwards, a delighted Darren McGovern stated: “The lads on the floor gave it everything tonight. We played Star at home a couple of weeks ago in the league and they gave us one hell of a battle and we remembered that – we prepped really, really hard all week for this and we got there. We’re delighted. I don’t have any words for the performance – it was breath taking at times. The semi-final is anyone’s game now. We’ve never been there as a club and we’re delighted to be there now.”
Éanna will now face Garvey’s Tralee Warriors in the semi-final in Cork, in a hugely anticipated rematch between the teams, with Éanna one of just three teams so far this season to beat the reigning league champions. The Kerry side knocked reigning champions, Pyrobel Killester, out of the Cup on Saturday night in their huge quarter final showdown, with a 76-64 point win in Tralee. Warriors stormed out of the blocks early with three-pointers from Kieran Donaghy, Eoin Quigley and Daniel Jokubaitis. Killester managed to settle their nerves with help from Mintautas Bulanovas, American Kason Harrell and Spaniard Tomas Fernandez but Warriors held a 57-46 going into the last. With the game on a knife-edge, the reigning champs dug deep, and had some key plays from Isaac Westbrooks and Bulanovas to close the gap back. A big three by Bulanovas left Killester trailing by just three points as the clock wound down, but Tralee’s Paul Dick made two difficult shots and a big steal from Jokubaitis and a three-pointer late in the fourth quarter was finally enough to seal the game for Warriors as they avenged last year’s semi-final defeat to the Dubliners with a 76-64 point win.
Coughlan C&S Neptune are also on their way to the semi-finals after a superb second half display saw them overcome DCU Saints in Dublin 79-100. An extremely close first half saw Martins Provizors, Mike Bonaparte and Kevin Lacey lead the way for the hosts with some superb shooting. A big finish to the second quarter by Neptune though, thanks to Peter Hoffman and Kyle Hosford - who were the standouts for the Cork outfit on the night and saw them combining for 57 points in the game - edged Neptune into a 49-55 half time lead. Momentum stayed with Neptune in the third as Hoffman and Hosford continued to dominate, and they ran out comfortable 79-100 point winners in the end. Neptune will meet 2018 Cup champions Griffith College Templeogue in the semi finals as they put in a huge third quarter display to see them get some breathing space against Moycullen to pave the way for a 95-82 point win. A high scoring first half saw nothing between the teams, with Templeogue leading by just seven points, 57-50, at the break thanks to a stunning offensive display from Moycullen’s Grant Olsson who finished the game out with 34 points. Despite being without big man Jason Killeen, the Dubliners locked down on defense in the third though, and with Lorcan Murphy, Puff Summers and Stephen James leading the charge, won out 95-82 in the end.
Over in the Hula Hoops Women’s Paudie O’Connor Cup meanwhile, Pyrobel Killester put in a dazzling display in Clontarf on Saturday evening winning out 72-64 over Fr Mathews to reach their first cup semi-final since 2016. Mathews started the game stronger, with Shannon Brady dominating under the boards inside and Grainne Dwyer shooting well to see them into an early lead. Killester settled as the quarter ticked down though, with Adella Randle El finding her range and went on to be one of the standout players for the hosts on the night. The sides remained neck in neck throughout the second quarter, but huge scores from Killester at the end of the period saw them edge into a 33-30 half time lead. Momentum stayed with Killester in the third, opening up a 10-point lead at one stage, 44-34, but again, Brady and Simone O’Shea were on hand to claw the gap back for Mathews.Strong shooting from Rebecca Nagle, Randle El and Aisling McCann kept Killester’s noses in front, 52-45, but the result was very much still in the melting pot. A nerve-wracking fourth quarter followed, with Killester just managing to keep ahead early on. Mathews were dealt a blow when Grainne Dwyer had to leave the court due to injury, but Chantell Alford and O’Shea stepped into the gap in style, knocking down some big scores to leave just one point between the sides. A huge three from Nagle with 42 seconds to go though was the turning point for Killester, as she stretched out their lead once more, and they managed to hold on well to win out 72-64 in the end.
Speaking afterwards, a relieved Karl Kilbride stated: “That was an exciting one! After our last two performances, we took a lot of stick – and rightly so – for our defensive performances and we put an awful lot of work in this week into making sure that if we were going to lose this game, we’d have no regrets because we didn’t play defence. Credit to Fr Mathews though, they just kept coming back at us. We would get into a six or eight point lead and they kept hitting big shots, Chantell Alford was brilliant and Shannon Brady caused us big problems. Overall, I’m just so delighted with our turnaround from the last two weeks. If we can play defense like we did tonight going forward, we’re confident that we’ll give anybody a game and we’re excited to move forward.”
2018 National Cup champions DCU Mercy meanwhile are also through to the semi-finals as they put in a superb second half display against IT Carlow Basketball on Saturday afternoon to win out 86-45 in the end. The first half was neck-in- neck with Carlow trailing by just six at the half, 32-26, thanks to superb work from Kaitlyn Slagus and Holli Dunne. DCU went on the rampage in the third quarter though, putting in a huge 31-point quarter with Meredith Burkhall and Sarah Woods leading the charge to lead 86-45 going into the last. Their defensive intensity continued into the fourth, holding Carlow to just three points in the period despite the best efforts of Dunne and Slagus to win out well in the end.
Mercy will now go on to meet Singleton SuperValu Brunell in the semi-final after the Cork side just managed to hold onto their lead in Kilkenny on Saturday evening, to win out 62-69 against Marble City Hawks in a thriller. Despite leading by 23-35 at half time thanks to strong scoring from Treyanna Clay and Danielle O’Leary, Brunell were under pressure throughout the second half as Hawks were not going down without a fight. Huge performances from Cassidy Williams and Aine Sheehy brought the hosts right back into the game, but their comeback ran out of time as Brunell held on to win by five in the end.
Ambassador UCC Glanmire are also through to the Hula Hoops Paudie O’Connor Cup semi-finals after overcoming Maxol WIT Wildcats in a thriller in Cork on Sunday afternoon, 74-66. Nothing separated the teams throughout in an extremely close battle, with Wildcats pushing Glanmire every step of the way. The hosts had standout displays in Shrita Parker and Aine McKenna, who finished with 26 and 19 points respectively, but strong work from Wildcats’ Jasmine walker and Maria Palarino kept the game in the melting pot right up until the very end.