National Cup

Nov 04 2023

Preview: Paudie O'Connor National Cup

There are only three games in the first weekend of the Paudie O’Connor Cup, but each provides potential for an intriguing storyline come the final buzzer tonight.

Defending champions Killester exited at the first hurdle in their most recent defence of this crown, something their head coach Mark Grennell was stressing that they want to avoid at the hands of University of Galway Mystics in Clontarf.  “We have a lot of new faces in the team, but we understand that we are playing for our club members and fans and that they want us to do everything we can to give a good defence of the title,” said Grennell.

The task at hand is easier said than done though and University of Galway Mystics will pose problems despite their winless run to start the season. Michelle Clarke, Claire Mela and company will have to play hard defensively to put the shackles on free-scoring Kara McCleane but she isn’t the only threat within Paul O’Brien’s team, many of whom have tasted success in this format through the underage ranks. Throw into the mix an expectant crowd on home court and the weight of expectation for a convincing win will be palpable.

How the home side deal with that will be telling in just how slippery this banana skin is for the holders.

The Address UCC Glanmire are on somewhat of a revenge mission against SETU Waterford Wildcats, having tasted defeat on the opening day of the league season to this afternoon’s opponents. Both teams are much further on in their development now than in September, so the coaching battle in terms of adjustments from then to now will prove fascinating.

Each side enjoy a core of talented young Irish players, but with that youth comes a fluctuation in form and whomever can get the most out of their role players on this occasion is likely to edge a very tight game that would be an excellent later round tie were the draw not somewhat unlucky for both. It doesn’t get any easier for both should they advance. FloMAX Liffey Celtics are awaiting the winners in the last eight.

Portlaoise Panthers and Catalyst Fr.Mathews start their Paudie O’Connor Cup adventure knowing the winner of this tie will have a fighters chance of reaching the final four in Cork against Ulster University in the next round.

Pat Price’s outfit will enter the game as slight favourites given their recent run of form that has seen them recover from a slow start in the Super League. That run began with an 83-73 win over Portlaoise on home court three weeks ago. Both teams lean on a scoring tandem to a certain extent and whomever can win the matchup between Grainne Dwyer, Ariel Johnson and Alyssa Velles and Jessica Fressle is likely to come out on top. 

The Panthers reached the semi-final stage of the Women’s Division One National Cup last season via a home win as an underdog against McEvoy’s Cavan Eagles. They will be hoping the same magic can help get them over the line at St. Mary’s Hall when the final buzzer sounds near 10 o’clock tonight.