The Moycullen Under 16 girls basketball team were crowned All-Ireland Champions in Portlaoise after some breathtaking performances in their 4 games over the weekend. Having been drawn in a real “group of death”, with Liffey Celtics, the Dublin champions & Fr. Mathews, the Cork champions the girls they knew they had to be at their best to overcome both teams in their group and be in with a chance of playing for the title.
First up was Dublin champions and old adversaries Liffey Celtics in St. Mary’s Hall Portlaoise. The game was a real team performance with some outstanding contributions from Aisling Corcoran, Megan O’Donnell, Mollie Finn & Catherine Connaire. While Liffey Celtics played some nice basketball and were a real threat the girls never panicked and their defense in particular was excellent. After being up 5 at the end of the 1st, an outstanding display of team defense held their opponents to just 2 2nd quarter points and they led by 16 at the half. While Liffey Celtics did play a better 2nd half, the victory was secured on a score line of 44-33
The second game against Fr. Mathews was to decide who was going to top the group and play for the All-Ireland title. A poor start to the game had us down 8-0, with Mathews scoring at will and the girls rushing their offence. A nice score by Aine McDonagh settled the team down and they mounted a great comeback to lead at the end of the first by 1. However Mathews bounced back with an excellent 2nd quarter to lead by 5 at the half. How would the girls respond? A sensational 2nd half from the Galway champions had them storm back into the lead. Romy Cunningham & Ailbhe Davoren were simply outstanding in this game and they refused to let Moycullen lose the game, in what was a fantastic exhibition of basketball by both teams, the girls ended up victorious by 6 points (42–36).
With those two performances the girls secured the 2 vital wins and in doing so they topped their group and qualified for the All-Ireland semi-final against Ulster Elks from Belfast.
It was an early start and a change of venue to Portarlington on Sunday against Ulster Elks in the semi and while the girls were not firing on all cylinders, they were once again playing superb defense to keep their noses in front during the first half. The 1st quarter was a tense affair with neither team really settling, the occasion was obviously on their minds, and by the end of the 1st it was a 2-point game with the Galway champions in front. The 2nd was a little more free flowing but a gap was never really established and at the end of the half the lead was now 3. The 3rd was to prove key, once again the defense was brought up another notch and with control of the boards now firmly established the lead was stretched out to 7 points; Sorcha Whyte & Aine were having excellent games and Elks simply had no answer to them. The greater strength and depth of the Moycullen team was evident in the 4th and with Elks getting tired the deeper rotations for the girls meant that it was becoming relentless pressure with Chloe Conroy & Kate O’Brien doing an excellent job. The gap at the end was 12 points on a final score of 40-28.
Next up were Waterford Wildcats in the All-Ireland final in Portlaoise. A great start to the final had the girls into an early lead with excellent team defense from all 5 players. With Ailbhe doing an excellent job controlling the offensive, Aine & Catherine benefiting from some great ball movement and Romy & Sorcha anchoring the defense it was proving tough for the Waterford girls to get any kind of decent looks at the basket. By the end of the quarter the girls had edged 6 ahead.
While the scores dried up a little in the 2nd quarter the effort was still there and with Kate, Megan & Chloe playing solid the gap had increased slightly to 9 by the half.
As had been the case all weekend, the 3rd quarter again proved to be decisive and with some excellent execution on both ends of the floor the gap between the two teams began to stretch. Catherine was having a super game and proving to be a real handful as was Sorcha and with a monster 3 from Sorcha at the end of a shot clock the girls were up 13 at the end of the quarter.
While there were nerves and some anxious moments in the 4th quarter, Aisling & Mollie settled the team down to ensure that Waterford were never able to sufficiently eat into the lead. The girls were not to be denied and were deservingly crowned All-Ireland Champions when the final whistle sounded on a score line of 50-39.
It was a wonderful display by all the girls and coaching staff on what was a historic day for the club. At times their play was breathtaking over the weekend and probably one of the most pleasing aspects over the weekend for the coaching staff was the fact that in each game the girls never panicked, the defense was consistent throughout and whenever any of their opponents put it up to them they responded in kind. Crucially in each game different players rose to the task and put the team on their back to carry them through.
A fantastic achievement by the girls to add to their U14 crown that they had won 2 years ago and finish the weekend and the season as U16 All-Ireland Champions 2014
Team: Catherine Connaire, Chloe Conroy, Aisling Corcoran, Laura Corcoran, Romy Cunningham, Ailbhe Davoren, Molly Finn, Jean Hynes, Aine McDonagh, Megan O’Donnell, Kate O’Brien, Sorcha Whyte.
Coach Paul O’Brien. Team Manager: Julie O’Brien