National Cup

Nov 04 2023

Preview: Presidents Cup and Women's Division One National Cup

The Presidents’ Cup begins without its current holders for the second year in succession following Ulster University’s promotion so it’s an open book once more as to who might go all the way.

UCD Marian might have seen this as a good opportunity to make a deep run, but that prospect has hit a snag with head coach Ioannis Liapakis dealing with a number of injuries heading into their first-round tie with Kavanagh’s Portlaoise Panthers. “Unfortunately, we have 4-5 injured players but it’s a cup game and we really looking forward to it. We’re playing against the only unbeaten team in our league and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us to advance,” added Liapakis, whose team have the opportunity to secure successive wins for the first time this season. 

Conversely, it’s been smooth sailing for October’s National League Coach of The Month Jack Scully. His leading scorer Ravel Moody landed second spot in the Player of The Month category and the Laois side appear to be building a wave of momentum that will be hard to stop. 

“We are under no illusions that this weekend is our toughest test yet,” said Scully. “UCD Marian are a quality team with a fantastic coach, but we are confident we can give a good account of ourselves. A cup run was an aim of ours this season and we are hoping we can put our best foot forward this weekend.”

The bottom half of the bracket contains two more games that are very difficult to call. Titans BC have home advantage for their Presidents’ Cup bow against Drogheda Wolves, who managed to reach the semi-finals the last two seasons in succession. Abbey Seals Dublin Lions received a bye in the draw and will face the winners of Team North West and Mater Private Malahide in the last eight. The North Dublin side reached the final four a year ago with a much changed team, but both they and their opponents are looking to turn around a shaky start to their Division One campaign that sees them at a combined 3-7.

In the top half of the draw, Limerick Sport Eagles will enjoy a week off knowing they’ll take on the winners of Scotts Lakers Killarney and SETU Carlow. That one has match of the weekend potential as Baden Bell attempts to outscore a very potent attacking unit put together by Martin Conroy. The form book suggests that Moy Tolka Rovers will have too much for Killarney Cougars at home, but a win there for the Cougars will arguably be the biggest upset of the weekend if they can pull it off. The winners of that will face either Limerick Celtics or a resurgent SETU Waterford Vikings in the next round. The side from the South East appear to have clicked offensively in the last couple of games so will fancy their chances of taking the road win and advancing to the next round.

There are four games to sink your teeth into in the Women’s Division One National Cup, with holders Abbey Seals Dublin Lions one of four teams watching on with a bye to the quarter-finals.

The most exciting game on paper is the meeting of St. Pauls Killarney and McEvoy’s Cavan Eagles at the Virginia Show Centre. Maeve Coleman has quietly put together a very well coached team on both ends of the floor and their 3-2 start to the season in Cavan reflects that. Destiny Robinson and in particular Emillia Sexton Pinion give energy on the defensive end that can upset the rhythm of any side at this level.

St. Paul’s Killarney were disappointed to exit the cup narrowly at the semi-finals last season and will harbour strong ambitions of going at least one step further in 2024. Khiarica Rasheed has been extremely effective since making the move from The Address UCC Glanmire and Sofia Paska is averaging a double-double following her return to the fold. McEvoy’s Cavan Eagles hopes of coming away with the win will focus around putting the pressure on Denise Dunlea or Lorraine Scanlon to make pressure shots and counting on their young core to be up to the task of making plays in the latter stages.

The other tie in the bottom half pits Marble City Hawks against Moy Tolka Rovers, the prize being a home tie with the current champions. The visitors are no strangers to O’Loughlin Gaels GAA Club having come away with a 64-51 victory just two weeks ago.

A Limerick derby provides a feisty backdrop to the top half of the bracket. “I’m really excited about how our season has gone to date,” said Limerick Sport Huskies head coach Trevor Moore. “I’ve no doubt this cup game with Celtics is going to be a tough one, but I can guarantee the Huskies girls are fired up and ready to go for tip-off.” 

It was Huskies who had too much firepower for Limerick Celtics in their Super League encounter. Scout Frame, Ashley Harte and Orlaith Woods all registered double-doubles as Limerick Celtics struggled on the boards, something head coach Tony Hehir will no doubt be looking to correct early in this rematch. Both of these teams fell at the quarter-final stage a year ago and will be eager to have another opportunity to reach Cork in January against Templeogue in the next round. 

Oblate Dynamos and iSecure Swords Thunder contest the remaining game at the top of the bracket in a mini–North Conference stretch that will see the winners cement a home tie with Phoenix Rockets. Thunder head coach Paul Carr will be looking for a response from his side to their first loss of the season last time out against Templeogue, as well as combating the Coach of The Month curse in a bid to advance beyond the first round.

Dynamos remain without a win through the first month of their Division One campaign and need to find a consistent scoring threat outside of Alarie Mayze if they’re to steady the ship. Irish underage international Sophie Staunton has been one of the bright sparks to a difficult 2023/24 so far.