Naomh Mhuire lift the Cup

 

NAOMH MHUIRE carried the impetus of their remarkable semi-final win over Blarney into yesterday's final of the Sprite Women's Cup and, powered by pure adrenalin, they eventually ran Meteors into submission.

It was Naomh Mhuire's third win in the Cup final in four appearances since the event was switched to its new venue at the National Arena in Tallaght. Since their infamous loss to Tralee in the 1993 final, it has proved to be a lucky venue for them.

Not that luck played a part over the weekend to any great degree; but had Blarney managed to land even one of their last four free throws at the end of normal time in Saturday's semi-final, Mhuire would not have made yesterday's decider.

As it turned out, Mhuire beat Blarney in overtime and, far from suffering the effects of tiredness yesterday after their considerable exertions, they seemed energised by the narrow escape that they had extracted.

From the start yesterday they ran hard at their taller opponents and tried to negate the basic ball-winning advantage that Meteors' greater height, should have given them.

Meteors's 6ft 1in centre, Orla Callen, hardly took a clean rebound in the first hall, as there always, seemed to be a pair of Naomh Mhuire hands there. It was a tactic that undermined not just Callen but others on the Meteors team, and by half-time Mhuire were 32-21 ahead.

In offence, Ursula Kyne had an extraordinary first half for Mhuire, plundering 14 of her eventual 18 points in this period with shots from inside and outside and free throws.

When Meteors eventually came to grips with her in the second hall, her sister Anne-Marie, along with Edel O'Gorman and June Blount, stepped up to take on the bulk of the scoring responsibility.

With shots raining in from so many sources, Meteors looked constantly uncomfortable, even when Karen Hennessy almost single-handedly brought them back into the game with 17 second, half points.

A purple patch of scoring by the Irish team captain, along with a three-pointer from Grainne O'Rourke helped to bring Meteors from 14 points behind, with 10 minutes to go, to just four points off the lead (57-53) with just under six minutes left.

From there until the final minute, the game was always within Meteors' reach; but they just could not close the gap to a single score.

Entering the last 50 seconds of the match, Mhuire's tiring legs were still keeping them ahead, 58-53. With possession in hand and the clock counting down, Blount took the ball from almost half way to weave her way to beneath the Meteors' basket and score a crucial lay-up that put seven points between the sides.

With barely half a minute remaining, there really was no way back for Meteors, and only a consolation three-pointer from O'Rourke in the very last second of the game prevented Naomh Mhuire's eventual margin of victory from reaching double figures.