Sometimes you’re just lucky to witness or be in attendance at an event, sport or otherwise, that just brings skill, determination, excitement, drama to another level. And so it was last Saturday morning and early afternoon when a huge Moycullen support was entertained to what was one of the finest U20 National Cup Finals in many a year.
On a final score line of 71 – 65 Moycullen prevailed and once again captured the ultimate prize in U20 Irish Basketball but it could have been all so different but for the sheer determination and grit shown by this excellent side.
An excellent start from the lads saw James Connaire soar for a fast break dunk after an excellent steal and give us the best start possible. But what was to become part of the norm for this game, UCD Marian responded in kind with a counter blow only for Moycullen to answer back once again.
On our next possession Padraig Lenihan pulled down a huge rebound and was fouled, when he finished the 3 point play all was looking good for the team. When Padraig finished a fast break and Paul Kelly nailed a 3, suddenly the lead was 10 – 2 after 3 minutes. Marian answered back and with Moran hitting two 3’s sandwiching a good move from Muldowney, it was back to just a 2 point game.
Once again a great response from Paul saw us stretch the lead out and with 2 minutes to play it was back to 7. However, Marian responded and with 5 unanswered points of their own the lead was 2 at the end of the 1st Quarter; 19 – 17. Wow; what a start to the game from both teams.
30 seconds into the quarter and all of a sudden the South Dublin outfit were all square and momentum firmly in their corner. And while we were struggling to finish on the offensive end, crucially Marian never got their noses in front. Lenihan once again scored an important free throw after 2 minutes which seemed to settle us. James Lyons made a superb layup under pressure and when Paul followed suit, we had remarkably brought the lead to 5 points.
After a great reply from Marian, James Cummins made a huge 3 followed by a James Connaire lay-up and all of a sudden we had the biggest lead of the game at 8 points with 5:30 to go. However, a scoring drought coupled with some good scores from our opponents saw the lead down to 4 with 2:40 to play. Enter Cummins again who finished a super move only to fall awkwardly and have to leave the court assisted by medical personal. The game was back and forth, Matthew Donnellan finished a nice move only for Gilleran, Owen & Moran to answer in kind. At the half time interval we had the gap at 4; 37 – 33 but was it going to be enough?
After a great half time treat for some of our younger players where the jnrNBA’ers played their UCD Marian friends it was time for the all important 3rd Quarter.
Hard to believe but the tension, quality and nerve on display only increased as the massive crowd were on the edge of the seat for the 2nd half. It really was punch, counter punch who would flinch first. James Lyons and Matthew Donnellan were keeping our noses in front and then a Gilleran layup followed by a Steele 3 had Marian in front.
But 14 seconds later Kelly nailed a 3 himself followed by a 2 and we were back up by 3. Marian answered right back 2 point game, up steps Kelly again 5 point lead, answer from Marian, in turn answered by Lyons. It was unbelievable basketball and by the end of the 3rd our lead was still 4; 55 – 51.
Could we keep it going……
A Lyons 3 and Kelly 3 had us up 8 after only 90 seconds of the 4th and the crowd was going bananas!!!! But then a Muldowney dunk, followed by a Moran 3. Connaire was 1 of 2 from the free throw line, a McCann layup and then 2 from 2 from Steele and suddenly it was down to 1 with 6:20 to play. Moran answers a Kelly layup with a 3 and we’re back all square with 4:52 to play and all the momentum with UCD Marian. Gerard Davoren settles the nerves with a free throw, 1 up 4 minutes to play!!!!
18 seconds later a huge layup from Tommie McNeela after a fantastic fast break and we’re back up 3. Another great stop on D sees us get out again with James Connaire on the end of another great fast break. 5 up 3 minutes to play.
Even though we didn’t manage to score from open play after this point we continued to stifle Marian with excellent defense (the Dublin outfit didn’t score in the last 5 minutes of the game after drawing level) and when Paul Kelly made 1 of 2 from the free throw line with 13 seconds, the huge traveling support were able to celebrate an outstanding performance from the Moycullen lads.
The game had everything you could wish for in a National Cup Final; two superb teams who performed to their peak, skill level that was off the charts, grit, determination and a refusal to not lay down and accept defeat and a massive support for both team that encouraged, shouted and cheered on their teams from the very start to the very end to create an forgettable atmosphere. Sometimes you’re just lucky to witness and be in attendance…
And so like their 2008 and 2015 club mates, they write their own bit of history into the Moycullen annals in what was an extraordinary game of basketball and one which everyone in the Arena was privileged to witness!!!!! Thanks so much lads…….