Cruellest of Weekends for Superleague Team

Sligo All Stars 89 (51)

Maigh Cuilinn 83 (47)

The cruelty of sport never ceases to amaze. Maigh Culinn’s Superleague basketballers know this all too well as they await what is now a dead-rubber weekend and their certain fate in the relegation playoff despite enjoying what was their best month of the season in February.

A series of wins before narrowly losing to an excellent Sligo All Stars team in the Yeat’s County on Saturday by single digits, should have left them either safe from relegation or at least travelling to Kerry this weekend to face Killorglin in a winner take all bottom of the table clash.

However, a shock come from behind win by Killorglin against perennial powerhouses Killester in Dublin over the weekend means the men from the Kingdom now sit one game ahead of Maigh Cuilinn and cannot realistically be caught on points difference.

The scenario renders this weekend’s game between Maigh Cuilinn and Killorglin meaningless given Killorglin’s far superior score difference which Maigh Cuilinn will not be able to bridge.

The ultimate consequence of it all is that Maigh Cuilinn must now focus minds on a do or die one off relegation playoff game against bottom of the Northern Conference UCD Marian on 19 March in the National Basketball Arena.

UCD Marian are a side Maigh Cuilinn did defeat earlier in the season by a relatively comfortable 17 points, albeit that result was on home soil in the friendly confines of the University of Galway Sports Arena.

The power of a vocal home support can be a surprisingly deciding factor and this was never more evident than on Saturday last when a really excellent Maigh Cuilinn performance fell just short in front of a sold out and passionate Sligo All Stars faithful who roared their side on just enough to see them over the line 89 to 83.

A barrage of three pointers in the early going (five in total in the first quarter) from Sligo certainly helped the home support find their voice as the All Stars surged into a commanding 28 to 19 point lead at the end of the first quarter.

Playing like a team enjoying a fine run of form, Maigh Cuilinn stuck admirably to their task however and began to slowly chip away at the Sligo lead.

An outstanding personal performance from Grant Olsson (who had 37 points in the game) along with some fine scores by Brian Gaffney and Joseph Tummon in particular, had the men from Galway right back in things by the time the half ended, a Gaffney three pointer on the buzzer leaving the margin just four points, 51 to 47.

Following that initial ebb and flow of the first half, the game settled into what was a tight, tense and thoroughly enjoyable second half with both teams trying to throw the proverbial hay maker.

Sligo, always the more likely to go on a sustained run given their tremendous home support, edged out their lead to eight points at times, led by the magnificent Christian Williams who finished with 33 on the  night. Their spells of dominance were never to last more than a minute or two however with Maigh Cuilinn always seeming to find an answer. More often than not, that answer was grit and determination with Maigh Cuilinn somewhat amazingly doing significant damage via offensive rebounds despite the clear height advantage Sligo possessed.

With the game very much in the balance and under three minutes left to play, Maigh Cuilinn ripped off what looked like one of those season defining iconic run of plays when they nabbed three straight offensive rebounds by three different players and brought the margin to within a single basket.

Credit to Sligo though as, when called upon, they manufactured foul calls to settle things down the stretch and got to the free throw line repeatedly where they were able to eke out just enough of a gap to see them to victory. 

A James Connaire basket for Maigh Cuilinn with a minute to go to get scores back to within 3 points once more was as close as the Connemara men would get and in the end they had to nod their heads to a Sligo side that just about deserved it on the night, with the final score reading 89 to 83.

Maigh Cuilinn Scorers: Grant Olsson 37, Mateo Liberatore 10, Brian Gaffney 9, Ayberk Taylan 9, Joseph Tummon 8, Kyle Cunningham 6, James Connaire 4, Dylan Cunningham, Rory O’Sullivan, Kevin Nugent, Dara Kenna

Categories: Men's Superleague

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