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)
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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