Moycullen’s U18 Boys team trip to Castleisland in Kerry for the National Cup qualifiers was very much one into the unknown as the team travelled down without key players due to a variety of reasons. However, the team produced some scintillating displays in Kerry against some excellent opposition to secure a home draw in the National Cup 1/4 final in December.
First up were Kestrels from Portarlington who were a strong athletic team that had secured an overtime win in their first game so Moycullen were well aware of the task at hand. A sluggish start from the team had them battling with the opposition in the first quarter and only for some good scores from Eoghan Kelly & Kyle Cunningham, they could have been well down come the end of the quarter. However, some better play from Jack Costelloe & Conor Egan (making a welcome return to the team) in the 2nd quarter had the team up by 9 despite not firing on all cylinders. A much better defensive performance led to some good transition scores and the lads were able to pull stretch the lead during the course of the second half. With all available players contributing well, the team ran out 24 point winners on a score of 66 – 42.
After a one game break, the lads were back on the court against hosts St Mary’s of Castleisland, who had to win the game to progress to Sunday’s portion of the qualifying weekend. A blistering start by the Kerry lads had us down by 8 points early in the 1st quarter and it was a case of regaining some of the focus and good defence from the first game to claw our way back into the game. With Kyle scoring well, it was Connor Curran who stepped up to also hit some big shots to stem the tide. With the Kerry lads battling for their tournament lives, the second half was a dogfight. The Moycullen lads never panicked and kept playing hard to eventually prevail by 3 points on a score of 73 – 70. While not the greatest defensive display by the team, they showed some excellent character in securing the win against the home team. One unfortunate aspect of this game was an injury to Eoghan which resulted in him not being able to play the rest of the weekend.
With 2 wins, the lads topped the group and faced an early Sunday morning game against Waterford Vikings in the cross-over games.
A blistering start to the game on both ends of the court had the lads seize early control of the game which they never gave up. A good spread of scoring with Conor, Dara O’Sullivan & Rory Heffernan in particular to the fore saw the lads keep a gap between the teams and ensured that we would be playing Belfast Star in the tournament final to determine who secured home-court advantage in the Cup quarter finals. Final score was 73 – 38.
Moycullen & Belfast had met on a number of occasions previously and with all those games having been nip and tuck, the Moycullen lads were under no illusions regarding the task at hand. Once again a fantastic start on both ends of the court had the team off to an ideal start with Jack & Dara O’Sullivan doing an excellent job on defence. With the stops coming on defence, the offence also clicked into gear with Rory very composed while controlling the team from the guard spot. Kyle was again scoring well and with Conor & Connor moving really well to exploit any gaps and lapses of concentration by Star the lead started to grow and the pressure defence was really beginning to take it’s toll. By the end of the quarter the gap was 12 & by half time it had grown to 24. Limiting a potent Star offence to 25 first half points was an indication of just how good the team defence was.
Key to the start of the 2nd half was ensuring that Star didn’t eat into the lead significantly and not allow them get any type of momentum. In the 3rd quarter, Ronan Clancy & John Hackett were to the fore playing excellent defence to protect our lead and on the other end Max Brennan,Dara & Conor made sure that the scoreboard was ticking over. The gap remained constant during the second half and the final score was 73 – 51 and a home draw was guaranteed for the quarter final.
Great credit to the team on an excellent team performance over the weekend in all 4 games. They will go into their quarter-final against defending U18 champions Templeogue knowing that if they produce similar performances to those against Waterford & Star in particular that they will be in with a great chance of advancing to the National Cup semis-finals
A special word of thanks to Sonya Curran from Physioworks for all her hard work to ensure the lads were physically prepared for all the games over the weekend and also to Sandra Heffernan & Joe Curran the team managers for the weekend
The 1/4 final will be played on the weekend of 6th & 7th December; keep an eye on the website for details