InsureMyHouse.ie National Cup Finals weekend is always among the most anticipated occasions in the Irish basketball calendar and the journey to get there starts this afternoon.
Maree BC have struck form at the right time in the build-up to their first round match with UCC Demons on Sunday. Four successive wins puts them firmly as one of the form teams in the country. Head coach Charlie Crowley isn’t looking too far ahead in their bid to go back-to-back: “I think every year it’s a completely new year. We’re just preparing for what we know is a different type of game to anything else,” said Crowley ahead of their trip to Cork.
Their opponents exited at this stage a year ago at the hands of Energywise Ireland Neptune, but two wins in succession and a new addition in the shape of D’Andre Johnson from Plymouth City Patriots has injected a fresh sense of optimism that a cup run is an achievable target.
Beaten finalists a year ago Griffith College Éanna will have to carve another difficult path if they’re to return to the final, starting with the only unbeaten team in the InsureMyVan.ie Super League, Belfast Star. Adrian Fulton’s side will go in as favourites for many, with Tamyrik Fields and De’Ondre Jackson both recognised in the National League’s first monthly awards. Darren McGovern has been able to bring back many of those who brought Griffith College Éanna to within one game of lifting a trophy. Can they snap their run of coming out the wrong side of close games early in the season?
One of last season’s semi-finalists Bright St. Vincent’s received a bye, but the other Irish Guide Dogs Ballincollig @MTU travel to take on Templeogue. The hosts have made an early season move, cutting ties with Justin Steers and bringing in Zo Tyson from UCC Demons. Whether that is enough to topple the current InsureMyVan.ie Super League champions remains to be seen.
Ulster University are in Galway to take on Maigh Cuilinn for their first foray in the InsureMyHouse.ie Pat Duffy Cup. Last season’s Presidents’ Cup winners are well adept at holding their nerve in knockout basketball. A meeting with either Templeogue or Irish Guide Dogs Ballincollig @MTU is the prize for the winner in a tie that both will fancy their chances of getting over the line.
Elsewhere EJ Sligo All-Stars make the four-hour trip to Kerry to take on Garvey’s Tralee Warriors, while Energywise Ireland Neptune host Flexachem KCYMS with the winners setting up a tie with Bright St. Vincent’s and Killester respectively in the quarter-final stage.