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)
History makers defeat Luxembourg at FIBA U16 Europe - 10 days ago
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Ireland's U16 women made history to guarantee a highest ever finish at a FIBA European Championships with a 46-38 win over Luxembourg. A remarkable second half turn around ensured victory against a team who had won their previous encounter by 18 points. Ireland's defensive credentials were in full in display in the first half with Luxembourg pressured into mistakes and wrong options. Despite early scores by Bronagh Power Cassidy and Maeve O'Seaghdha (183-PF-00),, Ireland couldn't find the... [read more]
Ireland's U16 women made history to guarantee a highest ever finish at a FIBA European Championships with a 46-38 win over Luxembourg. A remarkable second half turn around ensured victory against a team who had won their previous encounter by 18 points. Ireland's defensive credentials were in full in display in the first half with Luxembourg pressured into mistakes and wrong options. Despite early scores by Bronagh Power Cassidy and Maeve O'Seaghdha (183-PF-00),, Ireland couldn't find their offensive rhythm and Luxembourg led 22-16 at the half. Dayna Finn (177-F/G-00) sparked a 6-0 run as Ireland needed only two minutes of the second quarter to level the game. Luxembourg would net two baskets in the next couple of minutes but it would be their only baskets of the quarter as Ireland would dominate the period and outscore their opponents 20-4 to take control of the game. Luxembourg would try and find way back in the fourth but the game was now firmly in Ireland's control and as Ireland's top scorer on the day, Annaliese Murphy, made her second three of the contest. It was clear there would be no way back for Luxembourg and Ireland closed the game out with a 46-38 victory. Ireland will now play Greece vs Finland at 1pm on Sunday to see if they finish up in 6th or 5th position, either way it will be the highest ever finish for an Irish squad. Courtesy of: basketballireland.ie
Fiona O'Dwyer (ex Northumbria) is a newcomer at Stabia - 20 days ago
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Castellammare di Stabia (Serie A2) strengthened their roster with addition of American (has also Irish passport) forward Fiona O'Dwyer (180, college: Emmanuel, MA). She has played for the last two seasons at Team Northumbria in British WBBL. In 18 games she recorded 13.7ppg, 9.4rpg (#4 in the league), 1.7apg and 1.3spg last season. O'Dwyer won English WBBL championship title. She was voted Eurobasket.com All-English WBBL 1st Team in 2016. O'Dwyer has played also professionally in United K... [read more]
Castellammare di Stabia (Serie A2) strengthened their roster with addition of American (has also Irish passport) forward Fiona O'Dwyer (180, college: Emmanuel, MA). She has played for the last two seasons at Team Northumbria in British WBBL. In 18 games she recorded 13.7ppg, 9.4rpg (#4 in the league), 1.7apg and 1.3spg last season. O'Dwyer won English WBBL championship title. She was voted Eurobasket.com All-English WBBL 1st Team in 2016. O'Dwyer has played also professionally in United Kingdom for Force. She graduated from Emmanuel College, MA in 2013 and it will be her fourth season as a professional player.
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