UL Eagles face season-defining game against UCD Marian
Paul Kelleher says it’s time for rookies to ‘grow up’ ahead of National Cup semi-final
UL Eagles celebrate with the trophy after defeating UCC Demons in the National Cup final in 2012. Photograph: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
UL Eagles head coach Paul Kelleher has called on his rookies to step up and his veterans to deliver on the eve of their season’s watershed. The Limerick side will get a festival of basketball underway this Friday when they meet UCD Marian in the semi-final of the Men’s National Cup.
Eagles have been here before. Scott Kinevane, Matt Hall, Neil Campbell and Stephen King were the nucleus of the 2012 Cup winning side and have since added Orlando Parker – the top scorer in this year’s competition. Kelleher also believes he’ll need the younger talent to shine for his team to advance.
“It’s time to grow up a little bit now. The first half of the season is gone and the younger guys need to understand that they’re senior basketballers at this stage. We’re working hard all this week, so who knows? It might turn around this weekend,” he said.
“Winning this cup is tough,” acknowledged Kelleher. “Swords turned us over on Sunday, Demons put 94 points on us in November and UCD Marian are the third or fourth best team in the league. But this team has got a lot of guys who have been there and done that and our younger guys are feeding off that.”
Top billing on Friday night goes to C&S UCC Demons and Travelodge Swords Thunder – the top two teams in the league.
This time last year Swords Thunder were competing in Division One and lamenting a first round exit in the second tier Cup.
“I guess they were an unknown package coming in but they’ve stayed the course,” said Demons coach Colin O’Reilly.
“When the going gets tough, they knuckle down for each other. They’re not too worried who scores the most points and the harder the game, the more physical they get.”
They may lack pedigree as a team but have proven winners in their ranks. Isaac Westbrooks won a National Cup title in the orange and black of Killester with his father Jerome back in 2008 and followed it up with another winner’s medal in 2010. Michael Goj picked up a Senior Men’s National Cup medal in 2012.
The action gathers pace after Friday night with 16 games across three venues. Tickets are available directly from the box office up to one hour before each session on a first come, first served basis. Full details are available on Basketball Ireland’s website.