Our U18 boys overcome a tough and physical Dublin Lions team to prevail in the U18 National Cup semi-final on Sunday in Neptune Stadium which sees them through to a National Cup Final in the Arena in two weeks time.
In a game which wasn’t for the faint hearted the lads overcame a resilient Lions team in Cork with all the team contributing in what was a solid and gritty display for the full 40 minutes.
The 1st quarter really was the game in a nutshell; Lions started off brightly but a strong response from the lads had us up 6-2 early in the game. While in control the lads were never really able to build up a substantial lead to be comfortable but by the end of the quarter the lead was 14-11. An even spread of scorers with Aaron, Paul, James Connaire, James Cummins and Daniel all getting on the score sheet. However, one disappointing aspect was James Connaire picking up two early fouls which sent him to the bench.
A better start to the 2nd quarter with Paul doing a good job getting into the heart of the Lions defence to finish some good moves. Some great defensive pressure from Tommy & Iarlaith was forcing Lions into tough shots which we were able to capitalise on with some fast break scores. When we failed to convert, Gerard pulled down some huge offensive rebounds to get us 2nd chance looks. While we were begining to finish well inside our outside shots were still not dropping but the lead was now up to 8 by the end of the half; 34-26.
The start of the 3rd was going to be crucial in determining the outcome of the game, a great start from our lads saw us stretch the lead out to 12 but back came Lions to bring it back to 6. Some great work from Daniel & James Cummins had it back up to 10 and then with some great defensive work it was up 15. However, credit to Lions they came at us with everything to bring the lead back down to single digits but a crucial score from us with 30 seconds to go in the quarter to steady the ship saw us win the quarter by 1 and even with all the momentum swings seemingly going Lions way the advantage was now 9; 51-42.
A great score from Gerard to start the 4th gave us another double digit lead and it felt that we were beginning to get control of the game. However, it seemed that when Paul fouled out with 8:30 to go that the impetus would once again go to Lions. But the very opposite happened; the lads put in a truly outstanding display of basketball to not give the Dublin outfit any easy looks and while we struggled at times on the offensive end we got scores when they were needed. With both teams trading baskets Lions were forced into fouling to stop the clock but with the two James’s & Iarlaith doing a great job from the free-throw line; hitting 10 from 14 attempts, Tommy making life miserable for the Lions guards and Ger mopping up the boards the win was guaranteed in the last few minutes and by the end the of the game the lead had ballooned out to 18; 74-56.
James Connaire was excellent offensively in the 4th quarter scoring 14 points, nailing 8 free throws and getting those all important scores when we really needed them. He was ably assisted by Tommy, Iarlaith, James Cummins and Ger particularly on the defensive end to make sure that the Lions were never going to make enough inroads into the lead.
Overall a superb defensive performance to hold a potent Lions team to only 56 points and while we we were far from free-flowing offensively ourselves we still finished with 74 points.
Next up for the lads is another showdown with our friends from the North, Belfast Star in what is sure to be another nail-bitter. With 2 weeks to prepare, there’s loads of work to be done to be ready for what is a massive challenge.
The team and coaches will know that an even better performance is required if we are to overcome Star and win that all elusive U18 National Cup.
Dylan’s interview after the game with David Naughton from Basketball Ireland.
Missed the game or want to watch it again. Game Link.
Team: Paul Kelly (21), Iarlaith O’Sullivan (8), James Cummins (5), James Wall, Daniel Arimoro (3), James Connaire (33), Avelino Assogba, Eoin O’Reilly, Aaron Kieran, Gerard Davoren (4), Tommy McNeela, Mairtin O’Conghaile, Niel Kelly, Cormac Croke, William Onyenweson.
Coach; Dylan Cunningham, Asst Coach; Nollaig Cunningham, Team Manager; Barry Connaire.
Well done lads!!!!!!!