Maigh Cuilinn 55 (28)
UCD Marian 38 (27)
A superb defensive performance earned Maigh Cuilinn their second straight home win in the Men’s Superleague as they defeated UCD Marian 55 v 38.
The win comes on the back of a series of extremely encouraging performances for the men from the west having notched a victory in their last home outing against UCC Demons before credible displays on the road in losses to DBS Eanna and Neptune in Dublin and Cork respectively.
The visitors on this occasion were a struggling UCD Marian who sit bottom of the Northern Conference and who were traveling without the services of their top scoring professional American Jonathan Jean.
The problem the Dubliners presented was clear to all home supporters in the University of Galway Sports Arena early however as UCD boast a young but well balanced squad capable of producing scores from any number of players.
Quick starts from Brendan O Riain and Ronan Byrne had the visitors up early before Grant Olsson began to steady the ship for Maigh Cuilnn with some crucial scores.
Encouragingly for Maigh Cuilinn, they were getting plenty of open looks on offence, albeit missing most of everything early on. On defence, Maigh Cuilnn were generally limiting UCD Marian to chances very late in the shot clock and under intense pressure with a hand in the face.
However, the undoubted good play from the Galway side was not initially reflected on the scoreboard with only Olsson finding any real rhythm. Despite being the better team for most of the play, Maigh Cuilnn in fact trailed at the end of the first quarter 14 to 19.
Things began to turn in the second period and the introduction of Brian Gaffney, who scored two huge three pointers off the bench, was pivotal. Gaffney, along with the long awaited return from injury of James Connaire gave Maigh Cuilinn a nice splash of diversity in their offence and they began to find more scoring options than simply relying on Olsson. The half time score more fairly reflected what had been a solid home performance with Maigh Cuilinn leading 28 to 27.
If the second quarter had been the turning point, the third quarter was the decisive one. A thundering 9 to nil run to start the half, led by the impressive Mateo Liberatore, pushed Maigh Cuilnn into a commanding double digit lead that they would never relinquish from that point onwards.
The run and subsequent dominance was made all the more impressive by the fact that star man Olsson was largely sidelined for the entirety of the second half with foul trouble. Without his scoring, Maigh Cuilnn doubled efforts on the defensive end and produced a display of team defence that had to be seen to be believed, holding a good UCD Marian attack to just 2 points in the third quarter, a feat unlikely to be repeated in any other Superleague game this season.
The almost shut out of UCD provided the bedrock for Maigh Cuilinn to take total control of the game and in that endeavour, Maigh Cuilinn were ably led by the veteran presence of Dylan Cunnigham who, while only contributing 4 points, was a constant calming influence.
While the score did not balloon out above 20 points at any stage, it was clear to anyone in attendance that UCD Marian simply had no answer for the stifling Maigh Cuilinn defence and it never looked likely that they would put together a run to close the gap.
A well managed fourth quarter by head coach John Cunninghma comfortably saw the home team to victory, all twelve players getting court time and Maigh Cuilinn’s second straight win on their home court in the University of Galway Sports Arena, final score Maigh Cuilnn 55 and UCD Marian 38.
Attention in Irish basketball turns to the National Cup semi finals next weekend and with Maigh Cuilinn’s involvement in that competition at an end, they can take a break before resuming Superleague action with a road trip north to take on Belfast Star on the 14th of January.
Moycullen Scorers: Grant Olsson (24), Mateo Liberatore (10), Brian Gaffney (8), Dylan Cunningham (4), Ayberk Taylan (3), Kyle Cunningham (3), James Connaire (3), Joe Tummon, Kevin Nugent, Donagh McDonagh, Rory O’Sullivan, Dara Kenna