DCU Saints 60 (31)
Moycullen 67 (29)
Moycullen secured a perfect start to 2022 in the most unlikely of circumstances, travelling to Dublin and getting a well deserved 60 to 67 win over DCU Saints despite missing their professional American player and top scorer Grant Olsson who was out injured and star Turkish centre Ayberk Taylan.
Without the services of Olsson and Taylan, Moycullen were still able to outlast their Dublin opponents through inspired performances from home spun heroes with 50 of the Moycullen’s 67 points coming from players who have came through the club’s much respected underage system. A welcome additional 10 points came from Serbian born youngster Marko Babic while Athenry produce Niall Bree chipped in with the remaining 7 points.
“It was a superb win to get,” said Moycullen coach John Cunningham.
“The standard in the league at the moment is so high, in no small part to the role that an increase in professional European and American players signing to play here has had. That is great to see and it is wonderful to be in such a high calibre league that our supporters get to watch every week but equally it makes it difficult for a club like ours to get wins.
“To get one where we were missing our two full time professional players in Grant and Ayberk, who have been just tremendous this season, and do it with the local lads stepping up and commanding a game like that, it was a real joy to be a part of.”
Moycullen started the game hot with their two leading scorers on the night, Eoghan Kelly (16 points) and Kyle Cunningham (11 points) connecting on the first two baskets. From there, three pointers from James Lyons and from Dylan Cunningham were added to by deft scores from Joe Tummon and Niall Bree and Moycullen were the holders of a 9 to 17 lead at the end of the first quarter.
All season, Moycullen have had dry spells offensively that have cost them wins. Their second quarter performance on Saturday looked like it might do the same. Scoring only 12 points, their poor attacking rhythm allowed the home DCU Saints side to find theirs in the counter attack and the Dubliners availed of this to register 22 second quarter points, their American guard Jeffrey Gordon particularly to the fore.
It left Moycullen, after having had a good start, trailing by two at the break. Encouragingly however, Tummon had connected on two further three pointers in the quarter and Kelly another. Moycullen would hit 10 three pointers in total in the game. Welcome news for fans who have been waiting for a bright shooting day for the Westerners.
Further, Moycullen had reigned in the main danger threat for DCU Saints, American big man Julius Brooks who, despite averaging close to 20 points this season, was held to just 2 by Moycullen’s defence in the first half.
The game remained tight and tense in the third quarter as neither team were able to wrestle control. Good scores from Josh Marvesley and Babic for Moycullen were cancelled out by some fine scores by DCU Saints veteran Kevin Lacey.
Crucially, the stifling Moycullen defence on DCU big man Brooks told and his frustrations got the better of him. After a wild swing at Moycullen guard Bree was followed up by a shove on Dylan Cunningham, Brooks was ejected from the game by the referees for unsportsmanlike behaviour.
Moycullen finished the quarter with a Kelly three point play the old fashioned way and a subsequent Tummon converted freethrow and the visitors from the west were in possession of a narrow two point lead, 45 to 47 entering the final period.
To this point, the defensive effort from both teams had been immense. Holding an opponent below 50 points through three quarters of a men’s Superleague game will more often than not indicate victory is on the cards. However, with both defences on top, it was to be a case of who could keep the intensity up the longest that would win out.
That team was undoubtedly Moycullen as Bree, Babic, Cunningham, Marvesley and then Kelly all broke free for crucial scores to extend what had been a narrow advantage to one that looked likely to see the visitors over the line.
DCU Saints, playing in front of their own fans, battled gamely and asked huge questions of Moycullen right to the end, but the men from the west were able to see it out and ultimately were just about deserving of their final seven point victory, 60 to 67.
They now can look ahead to this weekend’s trip to Templeogue with a renewed sense of optimism and hope to welcome back their talisman Olsson from injury in time for the game. Taylan, who returned to Turkey for personal reasons is also hopeful of being back in time for the contest.
“We will be coming in with real belief,” said coach Cunningham.
“Games between ourselves and Templeogue have traditionally been very close and given the performance we had last weekend, we are going to Dublin looking for another win for sure.”
Moycullen’s next home game is Sunday 23 January at 3pm in NUIG Sports Arena when they play Killester.
Moycullen Scorers: Eoin Kelly (17), Kyle Cunningham (11), Marko Babic (10), Joe Tummon (9), Niall Bree (7), James Lyons (6), Josh Marvesley (4), Dylan Cunningham (3), Connor Curran, Joe Morris