National Champions Trophy (new competition) - Mar 25, 2013
Emotions High as Champions are Crowned at the National Basketball Arena
[The Inaugural National Champions Trophy as well as the Nivea Womens SuperLeague, Men and Womens Division One and Nivea Womens SuperLeague Plate finals were all contested over the weekend at the National Basketball Arena]
The difference between winning and losing is just phenomenal we are champions now and it is an unbelievable feeling.
Tralee Imperials head coach Liam Culloty summed up like few could the level of emotion on display at the National Basketball Arena over the weekend after he witnessed his team lift the Basketball Ireland Womens Division One title.
Imperials victory over Oblate Dynamos of Dublin, 53 to 24, was one of five finals played at the home of Irish basketball during the weekend. As the best teams from around Ireland battled it out for the right to be crowned champion, scenes of joy, despair and even relief were evident on court throughout the games.
To be honest, for this group of players, I think it is the monkey off the back, said a beaming Paul Kelleher, head coach of UCC Demons, after his team had captured the inaugural National Champions Trophy with a win over DCU Saints 73 to 62.
We have had so much building over the last three years, we were right there this year again, we were ten and one in the league and then, I wouldnt say we fell apart but we just lacked a bit of fluency, we had a couple of injuries and illnesses, guys in hospital stuff like that. It killed our momentum.
We knew we were always there, it was only a matter of getting over the hump - I am delighted for the younger lads, Im delighted for the older fellas, delighted for the club really.
Delight also translated into gratitude amidst the celebrations. For UL Huskies players, who captured the clubs third successive Nivea Womens SuperLeague title with a win over DCU Mercy 78 to 56, many were simply thankful to be part of what must be considered one of the greatest teams in the history of hoops in Ireland.
It is unbelievable, everything we do we do for each other. You would never miss a training for the girls. There is such a good team spirit and it is just unbelievable to play on a team like this, remarked Aoife McDermott, Huskies mobile power-forward.
Fortune can also play a major part in these things, as Basketball Ireland Mens Division One winning captain Tim OHalloran said of his Blue Demons sides acquisition of star French guard Christian Anon.
He came into the college and the Mardyke Arena where I work and just wanted to play a little bit of basketball and make a few friends and we got lucky to be honest.
Anon certainly made some friends Leeside this season, capping off a memorable few months with a superb display that earned him the finals Most Valuable Player award versus a fancied Matt OFlaherty Chemist Titans side. His play was a large reason for Demons 88 to 63 triumph and the first of two titles the Cork club would win over the weekend.
Again, it was Culloty of Tralee Imperials that summed up the over-riding emotions best for winning teams after the finals and the conclusion of what has been a long and thrilling domestic season of senior basketball.
We are just delighted with the win and are going to go celebrate for a good long time.
National Cup Summary / Upcoming Fixtures - Jan 29, 2013
The stakes do not get any higher, as this week the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght hosted Irish basketballs showpiece event.
The National Cup finals are where every team wants to be and this years event was a wonderful spectacle for those lucky enough to secure tickets to the sold-out arena.
The highlight of this action-packed weekend came on Friday night as Bord Gais Neptune defeated UL Eagles to end 21 years of hurt and claim their first National Cup since 1992.
Neptune are one of the celebrated institutions in Irish basketball and the long wait for this trophy ensured there were wild scenes of jubilation at the buzzer. It was a stunning performance from the Neptune players and for many, this win represented a career defining achievement.
For Neptune veteran Ger Noonan, it was a particularly poignant moment.
"I cant believe it to be honest. My best friend died ten years ago last week. He was part of the team. I think its fitting that Neptune as a team and as a club dedicate this win to Emmett Neville. Im absolutely wrecked but its worth it," he said.
Neptune coach Mark Scannell was keen to pay tribute to Noonan, "Ger Noonan cant walk some nights after training. His body is breaking down but you look at his performance tonight, absolutely top drawer, he said.
In the womens final, UL Huskies sealed another National Cup with a win over Team Montenotte Hotel Cork. While clearly inspired by the games MVP Michelle Fahy and the tenacious Rachel Vanderwal, the nature of the ULs win spoke to a fantastic collective effort.
Coach James Weldon was certainly keen to stress the commitment of all involved with this UL side," Im running out of things to say to the girls when they win trophies. I just want to pay tribute to our backroom staff. We are not really about old school coaching here at UL. Its a team effort and all the little things that people do add up to success."
While much of the attention was focused on the SuperLeague sides, there was plenty of other action to enjoy over the course of the weekend. For Brunell of Cork, it was a very special weekend as they captured a historic U18 and U20 Womens double.
Coach Kieran OLeary believes the victories are a sign that future success is imminent for the senior side. "We are in SuperLeague at the moment, and with back-to-back U-18 titles Im confident we are going to get to the top of the table in the next few years. This is a great achievement for the club. I cant say enough about those kids. They are brilliant."
A star in both age-groups, young Edel Thornton collected MVP honours in the U18 and U20 final scoring a combined 52 points in the games.
Not satisfied with her incredible weekend haul, she already has her sights on yet bigger prizes in the years ahead.
"We want to come back here again next year again and win the U-18s and U-20s again. That will set us up well for the SuperLeague. We have to keep doing the right things and not become cocky," she said.
Meanwhile Belfast Star coach Adrian Fulton was sounding a little more contented after his U18 Mens cup triumph, claiming " the search for the holy grail is over" after his side defeated Moycullen 68-57 in the U-18 boys final.
"The last time we won a club All Ireland title was 1989.We have been so close before. Weve lost 5 semi-finals and a couple of finals,but what these guys have done is absolutely incredible," he said.
For teams outside the elite SuperLeague, the Division 1 finals were held on Saturday afternoon.
Oblate Dynamos secured their first ever national title with victory over Tralee Imperials, a victory which coach Terry Staunton was struggling to digest at full time.
"This has been an amazing season. We were struggling before Christmas. We brought Jolie Niland back and she has made the difference for us. To get here was brilliant but to win it is just unbelievable. This win is for our fans. They have been with us every step of the way," Staunton said.
In the Senior Mens National Cup final, Blue Demons enjoyed a convincing win 76-62 over Team Garveys St Marys 76-62. Coach Cormac ODonoghue was pleased that his side got over the line after a tempestuous encounter.
"I let the lads know at half time that we needed to keep focussed and keep the head. They did that in the second half and I think we controlled the game from there. Hopefully we can build on this win now," he added.
While Thornton looked ahead, Luke Thompson - who collected the MVP honours in the U20 Mens Cup final after his Templeogue side defeated Killester 64 to 49 took some time to look back and thank those who had helped him and the team reach the winners platform.
The development of this team has taken place over a number of years. We are very grateful to all the people who have helped us along to get here," Thompson said.
Basketball Ireland Weekend Results National Cup Finals
All games took place at the National Basketball Arena
Friday January 25th
Men's SuperLeague Cup Final
UL Eagles 65 (30) (N Campbell 18; R Taylor 15; J Killeen 11) Bord Gais Neptune 85 (43) (M Mcginn 28; D Townes 23; G Noonan 14)
Womens SuperLeague Cup Final
UL Huskies 69 (33) (R vanderwal 26; M Fahy 14; R Clancy 13) Team Momtenotte Hotel Cork 59 (31) (G Dwyer 20; T Bacic 15; M Breen 10)
Saturday January 26th
Mens Senior National Cup Final
Blue Demons 76 (42) (B ONeill 23; K Hosford 14; T Priou 11) Team Garveys St Marys 62 (38) (J Tehan 15; B Clernon 15; D Griffin 14)
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