After a tremendous cup campaign, Moycullen face the final hurdle on Sat at 2pm in the National Basketball Arena, when they face pre-season Cup favourites, Neptune. It’s a big challenge for the Moycullen guy’s but, having come through a number of tight battles, they will certainly enter the contest battle hardened. While most would have predicted at the start of the year that Neptune would make the final, few outside Moycullen would have said they’d be facing Moycullen. However, those that wrote off Moycullen’s victory in last years Billy Kelly as a freak result have had their answer. Moycullen have prepared thoroughly, starting in August, travelling the roads of Ireland for friendly and tournament games, flying to Barcelona for three tough games against excellent opposition and, after a 40-game season, they are in the final on merit. One more game awaits.
Both teams have their share of underage Internationals. Neptune have 6 current or recent internationals across U18/U17/U16 while Moycullen have the same number. The teams have met on numerous occasions over the years with Neptune having a clear lead on overall wins. However, on their way to the Billy Kelly U17 title last season, Moycullen shocked Neptune in the semi-final, before beating Maree in the final. The teams met in a friendly earlier in the season at a tournament organised by the Irish U16 team and Neptune cruised to an easy victory. They shared a common opponent in the cup in Kubs. Moycullen beat them comfortably by 10 in the final of their qualifying pool while Neptune pulled away in the fourth quarter of their quarter final to beat them by 18. The game was close for the first three quarters though. Neptune hung on to beat Maree in the cup semi, surviving two misses from inside the key and needing a big block by Liam Chandler on the last shot of the game to secure a 2 point win. Moycullen know Maree well and, despite not having beaten them this season, the closeness of the semi-final will give them encouragement.
Neptune like to play an up-tempo game, forcing turnovers and attacking in transition. They possess big scoring threats off the dribble in Adam Drummond. Sean Jenkins and young Cian Heaphy and, with a relatively deep bench, can keep the pace up throughout the game. Moycullen will hope to contain them in transition, limit them to one look at the basket each time and force them to play a half-court game. At the other end, if Moycullen can limit the turnovers that feed the Neptune transition, they will be confident of being productive against the Neptune defence. In all their games except their semi, Neptune won comfortably. However, in that semi, Maree hung in to be relatively close in the fourth and, nerves began to set in for Neptune. Indeed, had Maree taken their chances, it could have been an all Galway final. In contrast with Neptune, Moycullen have played a number of tight games with one common pattern in them all; they have finished the game strong. A 7-0 run closed out a win over Dublin Lions, an 11-0 run ended their quarter final vs Castleisland and they came from 16 down in the semi vs Tolka to force overtime, which they won. They will feel that, if it’s tight down the stretch, they have the experience and confidence to close out the game.
The U18 National Cup has eluded Moycullen to this point. Hopefully Saturday will change that.