The last weekend of January can only mean one thing in Irish basketball – it’s Hula Hoops National Cup finals time.
All roads lead to the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
In the men's Pat Duffy Cup, it's an all Dublin affair as UCD Marian face off against Black Amber Templeogue.
UCD Marian are currently on top of the men's Super League and have beaten Templeogue in the regular season twice this year, but the boys in red are ready for battle on Saturday.
"We're really excited," said Templeogue captain Stephen James. "We had a great experience on this stage two years ago, so we're looking forward to being back there. We know it's a tough task ahead of us, especially having played them two weeks ago. They have a very good team this year, but we're ready for the challenge."
Indeed, an interesting side battle is in store as Stephen’s brothers Conor and Dan will be with the opposing team on Saturday, with Conor an assistant coach and Dan on the UCD Marian teamsheet.
Conor looked ahead to the game from a UCD Marian perspective as they chase their first cup win since 2011. “We feel sharp,” he said. “We know this team is capable of fighting and closing out games in tough situations, which is something that can only stand to us against Templeogue – we know what we need to do to win.”
In the Women's Cup final, Ambassador UCC Glanmire are chasing a fifth consecutive win but head coach Mark Scannell admitted they faced a tough test against an in-form DCU Mercy.
“We are really looking forward to it and I feel the pressure, for once, is on the opposition as I believe we are going into the final as underdogs for the first time in a while. Our prep is good, there’s a great atmosphere in the club and lots of excitement, and the players are up for it and training like it’s their first ever cup final.”
Opposing boss Mark Ingle is also looking forward to the weekend, especially as DCU Mercy will have three teams contesting cup finals over the three days, at under-18, under-20 and Super League level.
“It’s great to have three teams there. We know anything can happen now in a big game like this, and I would say Glanmire are slight favourites with their cup history, so we’ll gladly take the underdog tag.”
Tickets are sold out for Saturday and Sunday, with a small number remaining for Friday night’s games on www.eventbrite.ie.
Hula Hoops National Cup final fixtures Session 1, Friday
IWA Wheelchair Basketball Final
Under-20 Women’s National Cup final
Brunell v DCU Mercy, 8.30pm
Session 2, Saturday
NICC Men’s National Cup final
Blue Demons v BC
Under-18 Women’s National Cup final
Glanmire v DCU Mercy, 12pm
Under-18 Men’s National Cup final
Neptune v Templeogue, 2pm
President’s Cup Final
v Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin, 4pm
Session 3, Saturday
Pat Duffy Men’s National Cup final
UCD Marian v Black Amber Templeogue, 8pm
Session 4, Sunday
Under-20 Men’s National Cup final
v KUBS, 10am
NICC Women’s National Cup Final
Killester v St Mary’s
Senior Women’s Cup final
Fr Mathews v Meteors, 2pm
Masters Exhibition, 4pm Women's National Cup final DCU Mercy v Ambassador UCC Glanmire, 5.30pm