Sunday’s National U18 Cup Quarter Final was another thrilling encounter between two clubs with very similar profile’s who have met on many occasions over the years. From U13 Community Games All Ireland’s in Mosney to a National Senior Cup Final in Tallaght to many other closely-fought contests across all ages, the common theme is always honesty of effort and pride in their parish. Both share the tradition of an annual Christmas “Blitz” which bonds them to their communities and feeds the love of the game in two “unusual” centres of basketball excellence.
On Sunday, they went toe-to-toe once again and with just over 2 mins on the clock in a ding-dong affair, Castleisland led by 4. However, over the closing period, Moycullen showed the greater control and experience, scoring the last 11 points and earning a place in the National semi-final against Tolka Rovers in early January. Captain, Eoghan Kelly was inspirational, hitting a massive 30 points with 4 big three pointers at crucial stages, including the one that gave them the lead for good at 69-68. Fellow international Connor Curran was the engine of the team, constantly in motion, attacking the rim and hitting 28 points of his own. While the majority of the scores came from these two, there were many big plays from elsewhere: the two driving lay-ups early in the 2nd from Max Brennan, John Hackett’s spectacular rebounding throughout, Ladmy Sila’s three consecutive offensive rebounds and his power post move to start the 11-0 run, young James Lyon’s big block to keep that run going, a true team effort across the board.
The game needed a special Moycullen effort as Castleisland came full of confidence and were up for it from the off. Shane O’Connell led the way early on, spinning his way elegantly to the basket and sinking floaters over genuinely faultless defence. He had 8 in the first quarter and 14 at the half. However, as the game went on, Moycullen rotated defenders and found a way to slow his game, limiting him to 5 in the second half. Despite trailing by one, at the quarter, 19-20, Moycullen seemed to have taken control in the 2nd as Eoghan Kelly’s two three pointers paced them to a 6 point lead at the half, 40-34.
However, Castleisland switched to a zone defence in the third and Moycullen were initially stumped. The six point lead soon disappeared as Moycullen’s misses and turnovers triggered some breaks for the Kerrymen. Adam Donoghue, an U16 international star from last season, escaped Moycullen’s focus on a a few occasions and showed his class, knocking in 10 points in the quarter as the teams finished the three-quarter point level at 53 each. Indeed Connor Curran had kept Moycullen from a worse situation with two great diving baskets.
The final quarter was a thriller. Moycullen showed their intent early as three’s from Kelly and Curran exploited the zone and established a six point lead. With Kelly and Curran locking down O’Donoghue and O’Connell at the other end, things looked good for Moycullen. However the game swung again as big Daragh O’Connell took up the fight for Castleisland. He drew a 4th foul on John Hackett, forcing him to the bench and hit 9 points as Moycullen struggled to find an answer. A 15-5 Castleisland run saw them establish their 68-64 lead with two to go. However, Moycullen then steadied the ship and produced the 11-0 run that closed out the game and a sweet victory.
This was the team’s 35th game since their early start to the season and the amount of ball played with different combinations has really stood to them. Players coming in off the bench know their role and, when change is needed, the team are able to adjust. Next up is Tolka Rovers, a team Moycullen have met three times already this season. The score is 2-1 to Tolka but, when you throw in margins of 10 to Moycullen and 6 to Tolka and then a 1 point overtime victory for Tolka, it’s very hard to call. Only time will tell… roll on the weekend of Jan 10th.
Moycullen: Eoghan Kelly (30), Connor Curran (28), John Hackett (6), Ladmy Sila (5), Max Brennan (4), James Lyons (2), Brian Garvey, Evan Somers, Mark Convery, Ronan Clancy, Dara Heffernan, Lorcan O’Mordha, Coaches: John Cunningham, Gerry Nihill
St Mary’s Castleisland: Adam Donoghue (20), Shane O’Donoghue (19), Daragh O’Donoghue (15), Alex Fleming (10), Keelin Houlihan (4), Jonathan Hillard, Luke Fitzgerald, David Lynch, Eadain Browne, Adam Nolan, Nathan Nolan, Patrick o Connor Coaches: Paudie Fleming, Maurice Casey