Ambassador UCC Glanmire will be hoping to kick-start their journey to five Hula Hoops women's National Cup titles in a row this weekend as they prepare for a massive quarter-final clash in Dublin on Sunday afternoon.
Standing in their way, however, is Pyrobel Killester, who now boast not only the services of former Glanmire star Chantell Alford, but also an unbeaten home record in the women's Super League – most notably ending Courtyard Liffey Celtics's run at the top of the table last weekend.
"We know we're going to be heavy underdogs in the eyes of everyone outside of our dressing room," admitted Killester head coach Karl Kilbride, "but we have great confidence in our own ability and know that if we play to our potential, there's nobody we can't beat".
Glanmire head coach Mark Scannell knows the pressure is on the reigning champions to perform big on Sunday.
“As defending champions and going for five in a row, it’s one of the most difficult fixtures,” he said. “They are a tough and physical team and are coming in off the back of a big win against Liffey but it’s the cup, and we’ll be ready.”
Elsewhere, it's a top-of-the-table showdown on Friday evening as Courtyard Liffey Celtics and DCU Mercy go head-to-head in their quarter-final, in what is a repeat of last year's cup semi-final, which Liffey won. The two sides met already this year in a cracking league clash which saw Celtics come out on top but Mark Ingle's DCU Mercy side will be showing no mercy this weekend.
“We are looking forward to this cup tie,” he said. “Both teams are joint top of the Super League at the moment, and we’ve been playing very well lately so have a lot of momentum going into the game. We will have to be at our best defensively to get the job done, but I am confident we can put in a good performance.”
Singleton SuperValu Brunell and Maxol WIT Wildcats will play out a hugely-anticipated cup clash in Cork on Sunday in a repeat of a league fixture from two weeks ago which saw Brunell win out in overtime, while all roads lead to Galway Thursday evening as NUIG Mystics welcome IT Carlow Basketball to Oranmore in a refixed preliminary round. The winner of that tie will face Portlaoise Panthers in the quarter-final stages.
There’s also Hula Hoops National Cup action across the Men’s and Women’s Division One, with the Men’s President’s Cup quarter-finals taking centre stage on Sunday afternoon.
Reigning cup champions Neptune will host Gamefootage.net Titans, while their Cork neighbours Ballincollig – who currently sit top of the Men’s Division One table – will face the challenge of newcomers Portlaoise Panthers. The unbeaten Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin, meanwhile, will go head-to-head with Paris Texas Kilkenny in Kilkenny, while Fr Mathews and Scotts Lakers St Paul’s Killarney do battle in what is set to be another competitive game.
In the Hula Hoops Senior Women's Cup, Fabplus North West will welcome UL Huskies to Donegal for a big quarter-final battle. Fr Mathews and Meteors have already booked their spots in the semi-final stages following wins over Marble City Hawks and Ulster University Elks last weekend, while Griffith College Swords Thunder have a bye into the semi-final.
It's regular Super League action in the men's league with UCD Marian and Éanna getting proceedings under way Thursday evening in a Dublin derby at UCD at 8pm. Elsewhere, Garvey's Tralee Warriors will welcome UCC Demons in a hugely-anticipated clash. Griffith College Swords Thunder and Pyrobel Killester will also go head-to-head, Black Amber Templeogue will face off to DCU Saints, while KUBS travel up to Belfast Star.
In an extremely busy weekend of basketball, the Basketball Hall of Fame Belfast Classic also tips off in the SSE Arena, Belfast, this coming Friday, with a feast of basketball in store for fans across the country. Friday will see Manhattan and Holy Cross tip off at 4.30pm while Towson and La Salle will go head-to-head at 7pm. The runner-up game and Championship match will take place on Saturday, finishing off a brilliant few days of basketball.