Basketball: UCC Glanmire put focus on staying at top
Coach Mark Scannell hoping hard work will pay off in women’s playoffs
Ambassador UCC Glanmire head coach Mark Scannell. Photograph: Tommy Dickson/Inpho.
The chime of the clocks changing this weekend signals the business end of the Irish season, as the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the men’s and women’s national leagues officially get underway.
In the women’s Super League, all roads lead to Waterford for the clash of the top four in each division, as Ambassador UCC Glanmire face off Pyrobel Killester in the first of the playoff semi-finals, with Courtyard Liffey Celtics and DCU Mercy going head-to-head in the second semi-final in a much-anticipated repeat of this year’s National Cup semi-final.
For Ambassador UCC Glanmire, this weekend marks a significant step in their season as they bid to not only move one step closer to a memorable three titles this year (having already scooped the cup and the regular season titles), but they also hope to defend their playoff crown, one they have held for the past three years.
“The pressure is all on the other teams to try and knock us off our perch,” said head coach, Mark Scannell. “We worked hard all year to try and win the regular season and get the number-one seed and we did that, so now all our focus is on this weekend.
“We got a good win against Killester in Dublin a few weeks ago, but we know games like this are different so we will approach the game like we always do, with big respect for the opposition. The bottom line is that we have a good team – a very good team – who are hungry for success and work very hard to achieve it. It comes down to one match though, and if we lose, our season is over and we don’t want that.”
Killester head coach, Karl Kilbride, meanwhile is also hoping that his side will be able to stretch out their season for another week, and avenge their recent loss to Glanmire.
“We’re excited for the playoffs, it’s where we want to be. Obviously, the last time we didn’t get the performance we wanted against Glanmire and we’re ready to go out and make amends for that. They are regular season winners for a reason and are very successful, very consistent over the last five or six years, so we know what we have to do. We’re looking forward to having some good trainings and going out and hopefully getting a win on Saturday.”
The second Super League semi-final on Saturday pits Courtyard Liffey Celtics against DCU Mercy in what is set to be another close and competitive affair.
“We’ve had three close games against them this year,” said DCU head coach, Mark Ingle. “But it doesn’t matter now what went on during the year, it’s about this game. The season is almost over, so we’ve nothing to lose. Our younger girls have been stepping up for us the last few weeks and have been getting some good minutes and coming in and doing the job. They are a strong side with two very good Americans too so we’ll have to be at our best to win the game.”
Courtyard Liffey Celtics head coach, Mark Byrne, was also looking forward to it: “It’s great to be in the playoffs – this is where we want to be as a team. We’ve had three great games against DCU, they’re a good strong team, and we’ve big respect for them. We’ve nothing to lose now – we’ve already had a great season, so this weekend is bonus territory.”
The women’s Division One semi-finals meanwhile will also tip off in Waterford this weekend, with ITC Basketball taking on Ulster Rockets in the first game on Saturday, while UL Huskies and Marble City Hawks do battle for a spot in the final in the second game.
The finals of both the women’s Super League and women’s Division One will be held in LYIT, Letterkenny on April 1st and 2nd.
Meanwhile it’s a busy weekend of action in the men’s leagues as well, with the quarter-finals taking place in Galway and Belfast. This Saturday’s games sees a crossover between the leagues as Super League teams Garvey’s Tralee Warriors and UCD Marian will do battle against men’s Division One sides, Maree and Ulster University Elks.
First up, men’s Division One regular season runners-up, Ulster University Elks, will welcome UCD Marian to the Methodist College in Belfast.
Elks had a rollercoaster of a ride in the men’s Division One top-four classification games last weekend, overcoming BFG Neptune on Saturday before falling at the final hurdle against Maree.
They will be hoping they can do enough this weekend to topple UCD Marian, who finished fourth in the Men’s Super League.
The second game of the day will see all eyes turn to Oranmore, Co Galway, where men’s Division One Regular Season champions Maree will welcome Garvey’s Tralee Warriors.
Maree had the better of both Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin and Ulster Elks last weekend to be crowned champions and will be hoping that they can continue this impressive form in the face of third-placed Super League side, Tralee.
The winner of the Maree/Tralee game will go on to face Griffith Swords Thunder in the Champions Trophy semi-final the following weekend, with the runner-up facing off to Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin in the League Cup semi-final.
The winner of the Ulster University Elks/UCD Marian game will face Super League regular season champions Templeogue in the other Champions Trophy semi-final, with the runner-up going head-to-head with BFG Neptune in the League Cup semi-final.
The semi-finals and finals will be held in Letterkenny on the weekend of April 1st and 2nd.