Basketball

UCD Marian v Killester: Familiar Foes Chasing Basketball Glory

UCD Marian v Killester: Familiar Foes Chasing Basketball Glory

Familiarity, the cliché writers say, breeds contempt.

For UCD Marian and Killester, who'll compete in tonight's Hula Hoops Men's National Cup final, familiarity has bred a sense of overriding respect.

The two teams have been the standard bearers in Irish men's basketball for the last few years, and as such, seem magnetically drawn to each other at the business end of the Cup and League each year.

They met at the semifinal stage in last year's Cup (Marian won). They met in last year's SuperLeague final (Marian won by a point). They even met last Saturday night in the SuperLeague due to a scheduling fluke (Marian won by 20).

"We know each other inside out. We know what they run. They know what we run. It cancels each other out," Marian's Matt Kelly said during the week.

Killester coach Brian O'Malley echoed the sentiment.

"Marian are a good team and I think it's a sign that we're also good team that we keep on meeting each other."

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Those recent match-ups are ancient history now. In the frantic environs of the National Basketball Arena on Cup final night, anything is possible.

Marian lost last season's final to Templeogue in memorable circumstances. While the dramatic (and triumphant) end to last year's SuperLeague season would have given the southsiders some succour, there's a sense of unfinished business with Marian and the Cup this season.

"Our mistake was we didn't play the game, we played the occasion," Marian coach Ioannis Liapakis said about last year's final after the win over Killester last weekend. The sentiment was echoed word for word this week by Kelly and Cathal Finn of Marian while looking ahead to tonight's game. It's Finn's first year with Marian and he was aware of a determination to get back to the Cup final from the day he joined the club.

"I could sense coming in at preseason there was a drive to get back to here," he said.

Kelly knows the core of this Marian team might not get more chances to get to Cup finals.

"Obviously we're not getting younger. We have nine players who are 30+. We really feel like we're at an elite level and we want to prove that by winning trophies in consecutive seasons."

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Marian made a sluggish start to the season but have rounded into form as the nights got shorter. Their semifinal rout of Belfast Star was a masterful exhibition of the technically-fluent Euroball that Liapakis, their Greek coach, espouses, with high-screen-and-roll after high-screen-and-roll opening up open shooters and delicious scoring opportunities

"Our approach is very controlled and deliberate. There's very little that happens by chance. Ioannis would often describe the game as a chess match," Finn says.

For Killester to have any chance of lifting the Pat Duffy Cup, they will need another rampaging performance from point guard Ciaran Roe, captain of the Ireland men's team.

Roe delivered a virtuouso, Jason Kidd-esque performance for Killester against a dogged Tralee side in the semifinal in the Mardyke, daggering the Kerry side with 34 points, including a litany of late free throws as Tralee flung in the kitchen sink in the dying minutes.

Killester coach Brian O'Malley knows that Liapakis and Marian will have a plan to diminish Roe's influence.

"Your doing a disservice to Iannis if you don't think they have their homework done," O'Malley said. "But everyone of our 15 brings something. That's one of the benefits for us. It's not just stop one. It's stop the fifteen of us."

And while last Saturday's 20 point loss was still fresh enough in the memory to sting O'Malley and his players, one-off finals bring their own kind of pressure.

"They're in the exact same position that we were last season," Killester's Michael Westbrooks said. "Last year we beat them twice in the league and it comes down to one-off League final and they won by a point and they win the league. They've beat us twice in the league now but it's not going to impact whether we win the Cup."

Donny Mahoney
Article written by
Donny Mahoney is Chief Sportswriter and one of the founders of Balls.ie

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