National League

Mar 17 2023

Race for Super League title hots up as playoffs begin

Belfast Star head coach Adrian Fulton has hailed Energywise Ireland Neptune “as talented as any team in the country”, ahead of their Super League playoff quarter-final at De La Salle. The remaining sides in both Super League playoffs and Champions Trophy playoffs are boosted by this week’s news that the finals will be broadcast live on TG4 on April 1st as part of ‘Super Saturday’. (Buy your 'Super Saturday' tickets here)

2020 Super League winners Belfast Star host Enerywise Ireland Neptune, who eliminated defending champions Garvey’s Tralee Warriors last weekend in their winner-takes-all contest. “Neptune had an impressive road win in Tralee and are as talented as any team in the country”, Fulton said, adding: “They have multiple threats across all positions including three Irish senior internationals in Cian (Heaphy), Roy (Downey) and Jordan (Blount). Throw in the wily veteran Nil Sabata alongside two very talented Americans that's a recipe for a very good side. We will try to focus on being the best version of ourselves. Every team left in the playoffs will feel they have a shot at winning it all and we are no different.”

Belfast Star head coach Adrian Fulton

Energywise Ireland Neptune player/coach, Colin O’Reilly, added: “We have played each other recently, so both teams have a good idea of strengths and weaknesses. There’s a good energy about the team after last weekend’s win, so we are looking to bring that into the weekend.”

Emporium Cork Basketball player/coach Ciarán O’Sullivan believes his side’s game at North Conference winners DBS Éanna will go “right down to the wire”. DBS Éanna defeated the Cork side 86-83 at the start of the month, their head coach Darren McGovern added  “With us only playing each other two weeks ago, it will be a very familiar match up. We have set ourselves some goals over the last number of months and we have slowly been achieving these. This match up will be intense and will be one not to miss!”

DBS Éanna's Kristijan Andabaka and Emporium Cork Basketball's Ciaran O’Sullivan during the National Cup semi-final at Neptune Stadium in January

O’Sullivan praised their upcoming opponents. “It's no accident that Éanna are North Conference winners once again. They have been consistent performers all year so for us it's about matching their intensity for 40 minutes and see where that takes us. We have played them twice now over the last two months, so if it's anything like the last two games it's going right down to the wire.”

Ej Sligo All-Stars head coach Shane O’Meara believes their playoff opponents University of Galway Maree are “probably favourites to win everything this year”, adding “it's a really tough challenge for us given our injuries et cetera, but I know the lads will give their all on Saturday regardless”. The National Cup winners may be hotly tipped to progress, but University of Galway Maree head coach Charlie Crowley isn’t underestimating the challenge at hand. “Tough game this weekend. We have to improve on last weekend if we want to have a shot at progressing into the next round of the playoffs”, Crowley stated.

On Sunday UCC Demons host Killester, Daniel O’Mahony’s side had a 10-game winning run snapped by University of Galway Maree last weekend, but O’Mahony feels the regular season run matters little at this stage. “I think playoff basketball is different, our record or anyone else is irrelevant and it’s who can be the best version of themselves over the next three games will win it out. Killester will be coming with confidence, they played a lot of games without key players, but as of late they seem to be getting everyone back healthy.”

MJ Randolph has been one of the form players in the Super League for UCC Demons

His counterpart Brian O’Malley said: “It is going to be a huge challenge, Demons have been absolutely flying. MJ Randolph has really taken the league by storm and all their guys fit really well together. We have to be firing on all cylinders, it’s the time of year for big players and big performances and our guys will be ready.”

Moycullen and UCD Marian contest the Super League relegation playoff at the National Basketball Arena. Moycullen boss John Cunningham “It’s a bit ironic that our last competitive trip to the Arena was an U20 Cup win against UCD Marian in 2020 and the same two two teams are now in a relegation playoff. Like ourselves, UCD Marian have had a challenging season with injuries and adjustment.”

UCD Marian head coach Ioannis Liapakis added: “We will be looking to continue on our current form and bring a big performance into the game. Moycullen are a very experienced team and we will have to be ready for the challenge that they bring.”

In the Champions Trophy playoff quarter-finals Waterford Wildcats host Killester and head coach Tommy O’Mahony pointed out they’re familiar opponents. “This will be our fourth time playing Killester this year, with both teams knowing each other very well at this stage we will have to make certain adjustments in order to limit their massive scoring power, but we know that if we can hit the performance levels with hit last week we will be in with a great shout.”

Waterford Wildcats' Sarah Hickey and Killester's Michelle Clarke in action during the National Cup semi-final last January.

Waterford Wildcats defeated Killester twice in the league, but it was the Dublin club who came out on top in the Paudie O’Connor National Cup semi-finals. Killester head coach Mark Grennell said: “Interesting game ahead of us. They’ve beaten us twice in the league by the closest of margins. It should be a classic battle.” 

Whoever progresses will face defending Champions Trophy winners The Address UCC Glanmire in the semi-finals.

Trinity Meteors and Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics are vying for the other semi-final spot, against DCU Mercy. Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics head coach Karl Kilbride said: “Really tough game ahead of us this week. While results haven’t gone their way recently, in a knockout competition, it doesn’t matter how you played last week. All that matters is how you play on the day. We had a really dreadful performance last weekend and will need to make huge improvements for this week.”

Trinity Meteors head coach Niall Berry added: “We’ve had two fantastic games against them this year and the last game we played was a very high scoring game, so it should be a very entertaining encounter.”

Niall Berry, Trinity Meteors head coach

In Division 1 League playoffs there’s promotion on the line, with four teams in the running. In Saturday’s semi’s at the National Basketball Arena McEvoy’s Cavan Eagles face Portlaoise Panthers and St. Paul’s Killarney play Phoenix Rockets, with the winners of those two games advancing to Sunday’s final at the same venue. The WNLC Cup see’s seven teams battle it out for the title, with the competition hosted at the Barrow Centre in Carlow.

In the Division 1 Playoff quarter-finals Moy Tolka Rovers host SETU Carlow, Limerick Sport Eagles take on Drogheda Wolves, Limerick Celtics entertain Ulster University and Malahide play O’Dwyers of Cork Fr. Mathews, with all four games tipping off at 7pm.

Weekend Fixtures Super League Quarter-Final playoffs:

Saturday, March 18th

Belfast Star v Energywise Ireland Neptune, De La Salle, 1830

University of Galway Maree v Ej Sligo All-Stars, NUIG Kingfisher, 1900

DBS Éanna v Emporium Cork Basketball, Coláiste Éanna, 1930

Sunday, March 19th

UCC Demons v Killester, Mardyke Arena, 1600 Super League Relegation playoff:

Sunday, March 19th

Moycullen v UCD Marian, National Basketball Arena, 1615 Champions Trophy Playoff Quarter-Finals:

Saturday, March 18th

Waterford Wildcats v Killester, Mercy Secondary School, 1445

Sunday, March 19th

Trinity Meteors v Leixlip Amenities Liffey Celtics, Marian College, 1600 Division 1 Playoff Quarter-Finals:

Saturday, March 18th

Moy Tolka Rovers v SETU Carlow, Tolka Rovers SC, 7pm

Limerick Sport Eagles v Drogheda Wolves, UL Arena, 7pm

Limerick Celtics v Ulster University, Cresent College, 7pm

Malahide v O’Dwyers of Cork Fr. Mathews, Malahide Community School, 7pm Division 1 League Playoffs Semi-Finals:

Saturday, March 18th

McEvoy’s Cavan Eagles v Portlaoise Panthers, National Basketball Arena, 1200

St. Paul’s Killarney v Phoenix Rockets, National Basketball Arena, 1415 Division 1 League Playoffs Final:

Sunday, March 19th

McEvoy’s Cavan Eagles/Portlaoise Panthers v St. Paul’s Killarney/Phoenix Rockets, National Basketball Arena, 1400 WNLC Cup:

Saturday, March 18th

Limerick Sport Huskies v Oblate Dynamos, Barrow Centre, 1100 (Game 1)

Marble City Hawks v Swords Thunder, Barrow Centre, 1300 (Game 2)

Griffith College Templeogue v Winner Game 1, 1500 (Game 3)

Sunday, March 19th

SETU Carlow v Winner of Game 3, Barrow Centre, 1000

Abbey Seals Dublin Lions v Winner of Game 2, Barrow Centre, 1200

Winner of Game 4 v Winner of Game 5, Barrow Centre 1500 (WNLC Cup Final)