NUIG 70 (32) v Moycullen 68 (34)
NUIG Kingfisher Sports Centre – 9 October 2021
Superleague basketball fans got a scintillating return to action Saturday night iCorrib side as Moycullen and NUIG played out a nail biter, with NUIG scraping by as winners 70 to 68.
After an enthralling back and forth encounter, the local derby and season opener came down to the final minutes when six straight Grant Olsson points for Moycullen had the nominal visitors trailing by one with 24 seconds left and possession.
It would be Olsson again who took on the responsibility and, having dragged his side to within touching distance of the win, had to endure the heartache of seeing his three point attempt narrowly miss.
The ensuing rebound found its way to NUIG’s Deondre Jackson who was fouled, sending him to the free throw line with only 3 seconds remaining on the game clock. Jackson made the first, missed the second and a desperation Moycullen half court heave which bounced off the ring put the full stop on what was a wonderful reminder to the 60 per cent capacity crowd of the best that basketball has to offer.
“Relief is the first thought,” admitted NUIG head coach Charlie Crowley after the final whistle.
“Moycullen made it very difficult as it always is against them. All the credit to our players. They are putting in trojan work. Some travelling across the country for training, I’m just delighted for them.”
The break down of scores by quarter tells you all you need to know about just how tight this contest was with Moycullen winners of quarters one and two by one point each, NUIG the winners of the third quarter by four points before the team’s equalled each other in the fourth and final quarter with 16 points apiece.
It was Moycullen who started brightest, a reflection of the slightly more settled squad consisting overwhelmingly of players who have played through underage and now senior together for such a long period despite their relative youth.
There were fine performances throughout by Olsson, Joe Tummon, Kyle Cunningham, Eoghan Kelly and Josh Marvesley and their early superiority no doubt had them hoping for the perfect start to the 2021/2022 season that has been so long in the waiting.
Their early eight point lead was quickly reeled in however by NUIG. Led by the impressive debutant Lovre Tvrdic, NUIG came to terms with Moycullen’s physical edge as the game fell into a familiar rhythm for these derbies with neither side able to establish much daylight.
While NUIG produced some superb moments of skill and deft finishing, Moycullen narrowly edged the rebounding statistics and general hustle plays which have become their calling card in their dozen years at Superleague level.
In truth, nothing really separated the sides and it was always going to come down to who had the run of momentum at the right time.
Only two points separated the teams at the half, Moycullen with the advantage, and it was to be a resurgent NUIG third quarter and start of the fourth that would ultimately decide the result. When Kenneth Hansberry connected on a ridiculously far out three pointer to start the fourth quarter, it capped what had been a tremendous period of play for his side and saw them take a five point lead.
The game trundled nervously to the final minutes from there with Moycullen’s final surge coming just that bit late.
“Heart breaking way to lose the game after what was a super effort by the lads,” remarked Moycullen head coach John Cunningham.
“It was one of those derby games, very tight and at times nervy which is probably reflected in a poor shooting percentage but still a really exciting game and a brilliant advertisement for Superleague in Galway.”
Superleague action returns to Galway this Sunday (17 October) when Kieran Donaghy and the Tralee Warriors roll into town for a 3pm tip off against Moycullen at NUI Galway. Due to Covid restrictions, admittance will be by ticket only with tickets available via the club website.
Moycullen Scorers: Grant Olsson (20), Josh Marvesley (16), Kyle Cunningham (10), Joe Tummon (8), Eoghan Kelly (6), Paul Kelly (3), James Lyons (3), Dylan Cunningham (2), Conor Curran, Marko Babic, Paul O’Brien, Joe Morris.