Maigh Cuilinn 82 (49)
Templeogue 79 (30)
Maigh Cuilinn produced what was undoubtedly their performance of the season last Saturday, leading from start to finish to earn an upset win against Dublin powerhouse Templeogue in the Basketball Ireland Men’s Superleague on a scoreline of 82 to 79.
Played in the superb Spórtlann Mhichael Mhóir in Leitir Móir as Maigh Cuilinn’s final home game of the 2022/2023 campaign and as part of a wider day of basketball as gaeilge run by Cumann Cispheile Mhaigh Cuilinn – the vocal local support was evident from the very tip and played a significant role in driving the Connemara men to dream 16 to 2 opening five minute period.
The visitor’s from Templeogue seemed to have left their shooting touch at one of the bridge crossing points out to Leitir Móir with the usually deadly accurate Neil Randolph and Luke Thompson most notably cold from long range in the early goings.
Head coach John Cunningham could have asked for little more from his charges in the first quarter by the time it had ended on a scoreline of Maigh Cuilnn 23 to Templeogue 12. Five Maigh Cuilinn players had already scored and the trademark defensive toughness was evident with only Templeogue big man James Gormley causing any real problems on the other end.
In a crucial game for their Superleague survival hopes, Maigh Cuilinn very much kept the foot on the pedal in the second quarter and far from a swing back in momentum as many would have expected, the home team expanded their advantage with Kyle Cunningham and Matteo Liberatore’s defensive efforts in particular standing out and assisting in stretching the lead to 19 at the half, 49 to 30.
If the importance of the match result had helped to drive Maigh Cuilinn on in the second quarter, the pressure of actually achieving it started to show just a little bit in the third quarter. What had easily been their best offensive showing of the season in the first half (scoring 49 points in a variety of ways) turned static in the third period when they netted a measly nine points and allowed the Dublin visitors a foothold in a game that had, to that point, largely passed them by.
When needed most, Grant Olsson and Ayberk Taylan were absolutely superb for Maigh Cuilinn in what was a very nervous fourth quarter overall. Olsson, head wrapped in a bandage from a nasty cut above his eye picked up during second half play, grabbed some truly immense offensive rebounds while Taylan scored a season high 20 points in the team’s biggest game of the year.
Still boasting a double digit lead with under four minutes to go, a flurry of threes from Templeogue’s hitherto ice-cold Thompson and Randolph made real the danger of the visitors snatching a dramatic late winner. With 20 seconds to go there was just four between the teams and all the momentum with Templeogue. Olsson kept his cool at the line however to convert the free throws necessary to put the game away and only a three pointer on the buzzer from Templeogue, with time expiring, brought the game to within a single basket and the final scoreline of a three point winning margin on 82 to 79.
The win leaves Maigh Cuilinn level with Killorglin on four wins at the foot of the Southern Conference with two games now remaining, the final one of which is a possible do or die last game of the season encounter versus Killorglin in Kerry. The team that finishes last in the Southern Conference will have to play a one off relegation decider versus bottom in the Northern Conference, which is looking increasingly likely to be UCD Marian.
Prior to all of that Maigh Cuilinn travel to newly promoted Sligo All Stars this Saturday for the penultimate weekend of the season.
Maigh Cuilinn Scorers: Grant Olsson 25, Ayberk Taylan 20, Mateo Liberatore 17, Joseph Tummon 10, James Connaire 4, Brian Gaffney 2, Kevin Nugent 2, Kyle Cunningham 2, Dara Kenna, Dylan Cunningham, Rory O’Sullivan, Donagh McDonagh