Report by Steven Heaney.
TWO of the Superleague’s most in-form teams went head-to-head this past Saturday, when Moycullen welcomed Tralee to the NUI Galway Kingfisher gym.
For Moycullen, the game was a chance to earn some revenge against the Kerrymen, having fallen to them by the narrowest of margins earlier in the season.
The game’s first quarter was played at an extremely high-pace. The sides matched each other score-for-score, with neither able to put any daylight between themselves and their opposition. Moycullen’s Brandon McGuire continued his run of impressive performances, and he carried the scoring load for the Connemara men early on.
The second quarter continued in the same vein. James Loughnanne and Paul Freeman connected on a handful of scores for the home side.
Tralee however, were able to find responses to each Moycullen run. Their captain, All-Ireland winner Kieran Donaghy, looked impressive during the second, always looking to be aggressive and finishing some aggressive drives inside.
After a couple of poor decisions and costly Moycullen turnovers, Tralee edged themselves ahead.
Moycullen, down five with 10 seconds remaining, James Loughnanne secured a rebound, raced up the court and drilled a three-pointer as time expired, giving his side some momentum going into the changing rooms at halftime.
In the third McGuire and Loughnanne continued to come up big for Moycullen- McGuire alone poured in 11 points in the third; Loughnanne knocked down back-to-back three-pointers, putting Moycullen up 8, and giving his side there largest lead of the game to that point. However, lapses in concentration and instead of putting a stranglehold on the game poor decisions once again gave Tralee a lifeline and like us in the 2nd quarter they fought back. Donaghy, and Tralee’s American player Trey Pemberton caught fire towards the end of the third, leveling the proceedings going into the final quarter.
In the final quarter Tralee came out firing. Pemberton continued to score at will, hitting a trio of three-point shots which quietened the Moycullen faithful. After a timeout, Moycullen dug in defensively, in the hopes of pulling themselves back into the game. With under two minutes remaining, Dylan Cunningham and Cian Nihill converted two timely layups to bring Moycullen back within five points. After Kieran Donaghy split a pair of free-throws, Paul Freeman went to the line and hit two free-throws of his own.
On the ensuing possession, Moycullen came up with a solid defensive stop, but on their next offense, Freeman was whistled very harshly for an illegal screen, giving the ball back to the Kerrymen.
Again Moycullen managed to get a stop, and with only 3 seconds remaining and no timeouts left to advance the ball, they threw up a 3/4 court prayer as time expired. Unfortunately, the shot rimmed out, and Tralee left Galway with the narrow victory.
Moycullen Scorers: Paul Freeman (22), James Loughnanne (19), Brandon McGuire (10), Dylan Cunningham (9), CIan Nihill (7), Stephen Tummon (4), Joseph Tummon (2), Patrick Lyons, Kyle Cunningham, Mark Convery