January may be best known in Irish basketball for the magic of the cup but this weekends Nivea SuperLeague results will undoubtedly have huge bearing come March.
With just a point separating UL Eagles and UCC Demons atop the Nivea For Mens SuperLeague table both teams will need to overcome resurgent teams in DCU Saints and Killester. Meanwhile, Bord Gais Neptune will look to continue their recent run of good form when Moycullen come to town while UCD Marian and Dublin Inter round off the weekends action in the men.
Speaking ahead of their crucial tie with Killester, UCC Demons head coach Paul Kelleher praised the response from his players following a heart-breaking Cork derby loss to bitter rivals Bord Gais Neptune in the cup semi-final.
We talked about it for a few minutes on training Monday night and then we put it behind us. I though the application and attitude of the players was fantastic and a testament to their character.
We have one focus now and only one focus and that is Saturday night in the IWA Centre in Clontarf and getting a result against Killester, said Kelleher.
While they will be favourites, Demons were almost upstaged on their last journey to the capital as UCD Marian, without the services of their American player, came within a single basket of the Cork outfit.
The last meeting between these two sides was packed with side-stories as Killester introduced a new coach and new American player in Tom Doherty and Michael Bonaparte. Inspired by these additions to the team, Killester went on to stun Demons and will be hopeful that the matchup problems they caused that day will once again bear fruit this weekend.
In Limerick, a very similar storyline is present for the contest between defending champions UL Eagles and DCU Saints. The previous meeting between the teams saw Saints pull off a major upset and head coach Dave Donnelly is well aware that a superb performance will be needed this time around to avoid suffering from an inevitable Eagles backlash.
We did get a good result against them last time out but it will be a huge ask to go to Limerick and win and we know that. They are clearly one of the best teams, they are top of the league and in the cup final, said Donnelly.
Donnelly, who has seen a resurgence in form from his team after a shaky start was refusing to be drawn into how high up the table Saints can finish.
It has been a really topsy-turvy season and we need to just continue taking it one game at a time, play well and hopefully that will leave us in a good position by the end of the season.
While the two table-toppers are on court in Dublin and Limerick this weekend, their closest challenger, Bord Gais Neptune will be hosting Moycullen of Galway in Cork. Neptune currently lie two games off top spot and cannot afford any mistakes as the season nears its end.
Moycullen head coach Salva Camps is well aware that his young outfit will be facing a focused and currently in-form team in Neptune.
They won a big game last week in the cup semi-final against Demons and will be very confident. To win we will need to contain their centre Darren Townes who really hurt us last time out as well as stop Ger Noonan from getting down the lane whenever he wants.
The only other game on the schedule this weekend is an all-Dublin affair as UCD Marian and Dublin Inter square off in Belfield.
Boosted by the signing of Thomas Viglianco, Marian came agonisingly close to winning their cup semi-final last weekend only to be thwarted by a late UL Eagles rally.
Heading into this weekends games, UCD Marian guard Conor James is hoping the addition of Viglianco continues to see improved Marian performances.
As well as being a lights out shooter, Thomas is incredible at getting his team mates involved so he didnt have to make much of transition to fit in with our team, said James.
Despite being at the lower end of the Nivea For Mens SuperLeague table, Marian proved last weekend that they are still capable of beating any team in the counry.
The mood in camp is very good and we are starting to play with a lot of freedom. There isnt a whole lot of pressure on us anymore and we tend to play better playing as a team who has nothing to lose, said James.
The standout fixture in the Nivea Womens SuperLeague this weekend is without doubt the mouth-watering all Cork tie between a young up-and-coming Singleton SuperValu Brunell squad and the established top team Leeside, Team Montenotte Hotel Cork.
This is the Demons Neptune game for us. There has been a great rivalry between the teams and everyone is fit and ready to go for Sunday, said Brunell head coach Kieran OLeary.
We are obviously at somewhat of a disadvantage physically to them just because we are so much younger so playing tought defence and forcing them to shoot from outside will be crucial for us if we are going to win, OLeary went on to say.
Elsewhere in the Nivea Womens SuperLeague there is a an all-Dublin clash Clontarf as Killester tak on a DCU Mercy team that will be trying to recover from a deflating cup semi-final loss last weekend.
In Limerick, defending champions UL Huskies will be favourites to get the win against Liffey Celtics while Meteors and WIT Widlcats play out what looks like being a close affair in Colaiste Iosagain.
Basketball Ireland Upcoming fixtures
Saturday January 19th
Nivea For Men's SuperLeague
Killester v UCC Demons, IWA Clontarf, 18:00 ; UCD Marian v Dublin Inter, UCD Sports Complex, 19:10 ; Bord Gais Neptune v Moycullen, Neptune Stadium, 19:30 ; UL Eagles v DCU Saints, UL Arena, 19:30
Nivea Womens SuperLeague
UL Huskies v Liffey Celtics, UL Arena, 17:00 ; Meteors v WIT Wildcats, Colaiste Iosagain, 19:00 ; Killester v DCU Mercy, I.W.A Clontarf, 20:00
Basketball Ireland Men's Division One
Matt OFlaherty Chemists Titans v Fr Mathews, Renmore, 19:00 ; Templeogue Azzurri v Maree, Oblate Hall Inchicore, 19:00 ; Team Garveys St Marys v Team Left Bank Kilkenny, Castleisland, 19:45
Basketball Ireland Women's Division One
UL Huskies v Portlaoise Panthers, UL Arena, 14:30
Sunday January 20th
Nivea Womens SuperLeague
Singleton SuperValu Brunell v Team Montenotte Hotel Cork, Parochial Hall Cork, 14:45
Basketball Ireland Women's Division One
Oblate Dynamos v Team Tom McCarthys St Marys, Oblate Hall Inchicore, 13:30
32-year old Irish ex-international guard Donnie McGrath (193-90kg-84, college: Providence). He is a dual citizen owning also American passport. McGrath played last season at Obradoiro in Spanish Liga Endesa. In 33 games he had 7.7ppg, 1.7rpg and 4.7apg. The previous (14-15) season he played at Krasny Oktyabr in Russian league where in 6 Eurocup games he recorded 11.2ppg, 2.7rpg and 5.3apg. McGrath also played 17 games in VTB United League where he avera... [read more]
Lietuvos Rytas Vilnius (LKL) signed 32-year old Irish ex-international guard Donnie McGrath (193-90kg-84, college: Providence). He is a dual citizen owning also American passport. McGrath played last season at Obradoiro in Spanish Liga Endesa. In 33 games he had 7.7ppg, 1.7rpg and 4.7apg. The previous (14-15) season he played at Krasny Oktyabr in Russian league where in 6 Eurocup games he recorded 11.2ppg, 2.7rpg and 5.3apg. McGrath also played 17 games in VTB United League where he averaged 9.2ppg, 2.6rpg and 4.6apg. The other team he played shortly was Anadolu Efes in Turkish league. In 5 Euroleague games he got 4.0ppg, 1.4rpg and 1.0apg. McGrath also spent pre-season at La ICL Manresa (also in Liga Endesa) that year. He was a member of Irish Senior National Team between 2006 and 2008. McGrath is quite experienced player. He has played also professionally in France (Cholet Basket), Greece (PAOK Thessaloniki, AEK Athens and Egaleo), Italy (Openjobmetis VA, Verona and BancaTercas), Lithuania (Zalgiris) and Russia (Spartak St.Petersburg). McGrath attended Providence College until 2006 and it will be his eleventh (!!!) season as a professional player.
Ian O'Leary agreed terms with Fuenlabrada - 11 days ago
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30-year old American (has also Irish passport) forward Ian O'Leary (201-101kg-86, college: St.Mary's, CA) from Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias. In 34 Liga Endesa games in Spain he recorded 4.5ppg and 2.7rpg last season. The previous (14-15) season O'Leary played at Gran Canaria where in 26 Liga Endesa games he averaged 4.9ppg and 3.1rpg. He also played 20 games in Eurocup where he had 6.8ppg, 3.0rpg and 1.2apg. A... [read more]
Montakit Fuenlabrada (Liga Endesa) strengthened their roster with addition of 30-year old American (has also Irish passport) forward Ian O'Leary (201-101kg-86, college: St.Mary's, CA) from Iberostar Tenerife CB Canarias. In 34 Liga Endesa games in Spain he recorded 4.5ppg and 2.7rpg last season. The previous (14-15) season O'Leary played at Gran Canaria where in 26 Liga Endesa games he averaged 4.9ppg and 3.1rpg. He also played 20 games in Eurocup where he had 6.8ppg, 3.0rpg and 1.2apg. Among other achievements O'Leary played in the final of WCC Tournament in 2009. He received also Eurobasket.com All-Spanish LEB Silver Forward of the Year award back in 2011. O'Leary has played previously for four other teams: Blancos de Rueda, Palencia Baloncesto, Vigo and Oviedo CB. He attended Saint Mary's College of California until 2009 and it will be his eighth season in pro basketball. The scouts decsribe him following way:
Overlooked somewhat at college but has blossomed in Europe. Strong going to the basket and has good athletic ability. Working on being more consistent outside the 3pt line but provides a real mis match for teams.
A very good athlete he is able to play several positions effectively because of a great mix of size and quickness. Rebounds like a center but runs like a guard. Very effective mid range jumper causes a lot of problems cause he is able to just shoot over top of most defenders. Can handle the ball and has no problem handling pressure and being a release valve for any backcourt. Aggressive offensive mind set makes him lead by example. At college played in a system to showcase NBA Draft choice Patrick Mills, but his performance in Europe will be very different as he will be allowed to show his complete game. Has very long arms and consistently tips and blocks shots from the backside and weak side. A very complete player is capable of playing at very high levels as he continues to develop. Shoots the deep ball quite well and is extending his range which for a player his size will make him deadly.
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