Belfast Star head coach Adrian Fulton says his team will be “underdogs” going into their InsureMyHouse.ie Pat Duffy National Cup quarter-final at UCC Demons this weekend.
Despite being unbeaten so far this season, Fulton feels his side are still unfancied to come out on top. “It seems strange that despite being 9-0, no one appears to be giving us a chance. We realise that we are underdogs and haven't a great Cup record. But winning quarter-finals is something Star has done plenty of times before - it's the final that always gave us problems! We also know we are playing well and this team has shown that they can find a way to win in difficult circumstances,” Fulton stated.
Maree's Terence Lewis is challenged by Tala Fam Thiam of UCC Blue Demons
UCC Demons are seven-times Cup champions and have already eliminated defending champions Maree, but they come into the fixture on the back of a three-game losing run in the InsureMyVan.ie Super League and head coach Daniel O’Mahony is looking for a turnaround in fortunes.
“The beauty of the Cup is league records go out the window. I think everyone aware of the injuries we have and have had the last few weeks, resulting in a poor run of form. But this group are winners and I know we will bring everything to the table come Sunday against a very talented Belfast Star”, O’Mahony stated.
2022 double winners Garvey’s Tralee Warriors play host to Bright St. Vincent’s, who were semi-finalists last season. Garvey’s Tralee Warriors head coach John Dowling is hoping for another Cup run.
Bright St. Vincent's player, William Jenkins, dribbling with the ball
“When you taste success in a cup final, your only goal is to get back there. So for us to move one step closer is the most important thing this week. After being on the road for 3 weeks, we’re looking forward to getting back to defend the complex, in front of a pack home crowd against a very dangerous St. Vincent’s side”
Ulster University were InsureMyHouse.ie Presidents’ Cup winners last season on the way to clinching a league and cup double. Their head coach Ryan McCormick is pleased to have home advantage this weekend as he plots another Cup run. “We are lucky to be at home with a team like Irish Guide Dogs Ballincollig @MTU in front of us. They are a club we have a lot of respect for, having followed a similar path to them as double winners in the National League.
“We know all too well the type of challenge they will provide us with, having faced them in pre-season. We'll need to be at our very best to break our current losing streak, but that's the beauty of the Cup - anything can happen!”
Irish Guide Dogs Ballincollig @MTU player/coach Ciarán O’Sullivan added: “I don't think either team are performing as well as they would like to in recent league games, but sometimes a cup game can change the energy and dynamic in a team very quickly. The talent in the Ulster University squad is impressive, and we will have to prepare and perform as best we can to reach the semi-final stage.”
Energywise Ireland Neptune have home advantage against Killester. Head coach Paul Kelleher gave his thoughts ahead of the encounter.
“Killester have been a tough ask for anyone this season. They control the pace of the game, played so measured and can score in multiple of ways. A formidable outfit for sure. We’ve had our own moments the last few games, but if we are to overcome Killester, we can’t have moments, we will have to have a full performance and I’m looking forward to seeing if we can do that.”
Killester head coach Jonny Grennell outlined the task at hand for his side. “Cup ties don't come any tougher than this and we will have to be at our best to advance to the semi-finals. We played very well on Saturday night to beat Ulster and had an edge that was distinctly lacking in our game against Sligo. Neptune are a force on offence, they run and move the ball as well as any team in the country. There's not many coaches in the country that would have the pedigree to replace Colin (O’Reilly) and continue to drive Neptune forward, but Paul's in that select group. We've to be at our best to get a result on Saturday.”
The InsureMyHouse.ie Presidents' National Cup quarter-finals kicks off this weekend in tandem with the InsureMyHouse.ie Pat Duffy National Cup, Mater Private Malahide take on Joels Dublin Lions at Malahide Community School after overcoming the challenge of Team Northwest in the 1st Round.
The second game of the Saturday will see UCD Marian take on Drogheda Wolves in Belfield, at the UCD Sports Centre - UCD Marian narrowly beat Kavanagh's Portlaoise Panthers 72-69 in the 1st round to progress to the quarter-finals.
Last season's beaten Presidents' Cup finalists Moy Tolka Rovers take on Limerick Celtics, after their last-gasp winner in the InsureMyVan.ie Division One last weekend, the visitors go into the game after securing a 101-93 win against SETU Waterford Vikings in the last round.
Moy Tolka Rovers head coach Hunor Harkai said: "We are excited going into the weekend and we are ready for the biggest challenge in 2023! We have a nice rhythm, different players stepping up at different times and week by week we are showing huge mental power and and Spartan character. This mental strength and toughness we want to show again, plus I am expecting that even those problems with which we are facing at the moment will unite us more. All for one and for all!"
In the only Sunday game of the competition, InsureMyVan.ie Division One table-toppers SETU Carlow take on Limerick Sport Eagles at Barrow Centre.
InsureMyHouse.ie Pat Duffy National Cup (Quarter-Finals)
Saturday December 2nd
Ulster University vs Irish Guide Dogs Ballincollig @MTU, Jordanstown Sports Village, 1715
Garvey’s Tralee Warriors vs Bright St. Vincent’s, Tralee Sports Complex, 1930
Energywise Ireland Neptune vs Pyrobel Killester, Neptune Stadium, 2000
Sunday December 3rd
UCC Demons vs Belfast Star, Mardyke Arena, 1500
InsureMyHouse.ie Presidents’ National Cup (Quarter-Finals)
Saturday December 2nd
Mater Private Malahide vs Joels Dublin Lions, Malahide Community School, 1900
UCD Marian vs Drogheda Wolves, UCD Sports Centre, 1900
Moy Tolka Rovers vs Limerick Celtics, Carroll Arena Greendale, 2015
Sunday December 3rd
SETU Carlow vs Limerick Sport Eagles, Barrow Centre, 1300