With just three weekends remaining in the Nivea For Mens SuperLeague, it remains all to play for as teams chase both the title and a top four finish that would grant passage to the Champions Trophy in March.
The Nivea Womens SuperLeague, which unlike the men will be decided by playoffs, enters its penultimate weekend of regular season play as teams jostle for home court advantage.
For defending Nivea For Mens SuperLeague champions UL Eagles, the task ahead is a straightforward one. Win their remaining games and they lift the title, lose and the door is opened for the chasing UCC Demons.
This Saturday, Eagles face a red-hot UCD Marian team that won three games in nine days last week to reinvigorate a season that had been on the brink of disaster.
We spoke about playing for some self-respect and I have to hand it to the team, for all the changes since Christmas the spirit and togetherness has been terrific, said UCD Marian head coach Fran Ryan, who replaced Sasa Punosevac at the helm in mid-December.
While not realistically in the chase for fourth, Marian are a team on a roll who, having beaten every team in the Nivea For Mens SuperLeague except for Eagles this year, will be not be short of motivation.
Limerick is a tough place to go and get a win but we look forward to playing the role of kingmaker a bit and hopefully having a say in who the champion is, added Ryan.
The two teams most recently played out a tense cup semi-final in January, when Eagles eked out an eight point victory, a result head coach Mark Keenan would gladly grab again this weekend.
Winning the league outright is now in our own hands - UCD are a tough team and we just about got past them in the cup semi-final back in early January this year so we will need a full on performance to get the win.
Earlier in the day, Eagles closest challenger UCC Demons travel to Galway on Saturday to face Moycullen in a must win game for the Leesiders.
Two wins from two games last weekend kept their title dreams alive, but only just. Having played an extra game to Eagles they still have one less win and need the Limerick side to slip up if they are to lift the SuperLeague trophy.
Head coach Paul Kelleher has been encouraged by his teams play however and feels like they are finally getting some of the breaks that eluded them earlier in 2013.
In recent months we haven't hit clutch shots when the games were close down the stretch but this past weekend we did make those shots.
We still have improvements to make defensively but this past weekend we showed we are getting back to what we were performing like in our first eight or nine (games), said Kelleher.
This weekend against Moycullen will be as a difficult a task as there is. We are facing a Moycullen team who are still hungry and very much in the mix for the post-season Champions Trophy."
Meanwhile, Moycullen centre Stephen Tummon said that he couldnt think of a win that would be any sweeter than beating Demons.
We have lost an awful lot of close ones to them and they always seemed to catch us at the death with a killer basket. Weve played with a lot more confidence this season and if we ever needed to get a win against them then its this weekend.
Moycullen find themselves entangled with Killester and DCU Saints in a tight battle for fourth and are desperate for their first ever post-season berth. This is the clubs fourth season in the SuperLeague.
A pivotal fixture in that chase for fourth takes place in Galway the following day as Moycullen once again play the role of hosts with DCU Saints coming to town. Having beaten each other once already already this season and tied on seven wins and ten losses, the result will hand the winner what could be a crucial head to head tie-breaker.
The only other game of the weekend in the Nivea For Mens SuperLeague pits cup champions Bord Gais Neptune against Dublin Inter in Cork on Saturday night.
While neither has much to play for in terms of league standings both will want to finish strong as Inter look to complete a successful first year at the top level with some more wins while Neptune begin preparations for the end-of-season Champions Trophy, for which they have entry guaranteed courtesy of their cup triumph in March.
BASKETBALL IRELAND UPCOMING FIXTURES
Saturday, February 23rd
Nivea For Mens SuperLeague
Moycullen v UCC Demons, Calasanctius College, 15:45; Bord Gais Neptune v Dublin Inter, Neptune Stadium, 19:00; UL Eagles v UCD Marian, UL Arena, 19:30;
Basketball Ireland Mens Division One
Fr. Mathews v Matt OFlaherty Chemists Titans, Colaiste Chriost Ri, 19:15;
Sunday, February 24th
Nivea For Mens SuperLeague
Moycullen v DCU Saints, Calasanctius College, 15:45;
Basketball Ireland Mens Division One
Ballon BC v Donegal Town, Palmerstown, 14:30; Ulster Elks v Templeogue Azzurri, UUJ, 14:45; MOF Chemists Titans v Team Garveys St. Marys, Renmore, 15:00; Blue Demons v Maree, Mardyke, 15:15
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 - 13 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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