By Steven Heaney (photos at bottom)
This past weekend SSE Airtricity Moyullen took on Belfast Star in their third home game in as many weekends.
Despite missing a number of players through injury, Moycullen started the game firing. Sean Candon & Dylan Cunningham connected on back-to-back three pointers while Paul Freeman and Ronan O’ Sullivan were able to finish possessions inside. Belfast managed to pull themselves back into the game during the last 4 minutes of the opening period, with American-import Shawn Vanzant looking particularly solid. When the whistle blew for the end of the first, Belfast had tied the game at 18-18.
The second period was extremely back and forth. Freeman continued his good showing, while Cian Nihill also got off the mark for the Galway side. Stephen Tummon had an immediate impact for Moycullen after his introduction, converting on 3 consecutive possessions in the paint. Both Kyle Cunningham and Sean Candon continued their good form and played with real maturity belaying their young age and both youngsters looked assured for their squad. Belfast Star continued to match Moycullen score for score and neither side could open up a substantial lead. As the sides entered the changing rooms, Belfast were on top by the narrow margin of 36-34.
Belfast slowly extended their lead during the opening minutes of the third period. They relied heavily on the three-point shot and were successful on several possessions, carving out a six point lead. In response Moycullen got scores through a host of different players as Nihill, O’ Sullivan, Freeman and Paul O’ Brien filled the scoresheet. After further exchanges, Belfast’s lead was reduced to three points until Dylan Cunningham stepped up and buried a three-pointer inside the last minute of the period. Going into the fourth quarter the sides were level once more with the scoreboard reading 54-54.
The fourth quarter was an exciting affair, with the sides battling to maintain the lead. Belfast’s hot shooting continued and they were able to hit from downtown often. However, Moycullen big-men Ronan O’ Sullivan and Stephen Tummon found scores to keep the Connemara side in touch. Halfway through the fourth Belfast Star led by 4. Over the course of the next 3 minutes Belfast were able to hold their lead, as Moycullen went empty handed on a couple of key possessions. Belfast also secured some important offensive rebounds, further disrupting Moycullen’s offensive rhythm. A pair of scores from Nihill and Cunningham pulled Moycullen back. After, when Cunningham was fouled on a three-point attempt, he converted 2 of 3 shots to tie the game again with 2 minutes remaining.
After O’ Sullivan and Nihill hit again for Moycullen, they had a chance to take the lead, but failed to capitalise. On the other end, Vanzant got fouled and hit a pair of free-throws, extending the Belfast lead to 3. As Moycullen were out of timeouts, they were forced to rush up the court in search of a score. On a last second attempt, Dylan Cunningham threw up a deep shot from close to the halfway line, but unfortunately it hit the back iron of the rim just as time expired, as Belfast Star escaped with the win. Final Score 74-71.
Moycullen: Paul Freeman 16, Ronan O’ Sullivan 12, Stephen Tummon 11, Cian Nihill 6, Dylan Cuningham 13, Paul O’ Brien 4, Sean Candon 3, Kyle Cunningham 3
Coach: Nollaig Cunningham Asst. Coach: Gerald Lyons