The cup finals of Irish basketball take place this weekend with Ballincollig taking on Blue Demons in the men’s final and Brunell battling Fr Mathew’s in the women’s decider
It’s an historic weekend in Irish basketball, well for Cork basketball in particular. All four finalists in the men’s and women’s cups hail from the Rebel County. Ballincollig, Blue Demons, Brunell, and Fr Mathews will do battle over Saturday and Sunday.
This is a big deal
The traditional power bases of Irish hoops are Dublin and Cork. Of the four teams in the finals this weekend however, only Blue Demons can claim to be one of the household names in the sport.
For context. Demons have won the men’s cup six times. None of Brunell, Fr Mathews, or Ballincollig have ever won the top cup competition in Irish basketball. We have guaranteed first time champions in one final while Ballincollig will be favoured to also claim a maiden cup title in their final.
For all of their storied history in the sport, Blue Demons were not favoured to make this game. Demons had to fight their way back to the top flight a couple of years ago. In each of their cup games to date, they have been underdogs going into the game. That includes their epic victory over Neptune in the semi-final earlier this month.
Ballincollig, by contrast, have built on their first ever Super League title last spring to reach this final for the first time ever. A rising force in Irish basketball, they are riding high in the Southern Conference at present, Ballincollig overcame an utterly heroic performance from Kieran Donaghy and Tralee Warriors in their semi-final.
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Brunell have lost one game all season and that just happens to be the one that Edel Thornton missed through injury. With the Ireland international on the floor, they have been an invincible force in women’s Irish basketball so far this season. That included a clear cut win over Killester in the semi-final.
Fr Mathews by contrast have endured their share of battles this season. They pulled off a big win, and quite the upset, to take down Liffey Celtics in the semi-final. With sisters Gráinne and Niamh Dwyer providing veteran experience to an otherwise young roster, they will relish the underdogs tag in Sunday’s clash.
Staying with the women first, it’s really difficult to look beyond Brunell. Not only do they have the record to back up their favourites tag, they have depth as well. Pat Price is going to need to pull off some magic with his rotations to keep Fr Mathews in this one. Eventually, that will probably be too much to ask. I’m picking Brunell for the women’s one.
Switching to the men and depth is again the big issue. Seventh Woods has the potential to take over this game for Blue Demons. Even if he plays lights out, that may not be enough. When Adrian O’Sullivan can occasionally occupy a fourth option as an offensive threat, you know it’s a special line-up. I’ll stay chalk and pick both favourites to succeed on a big weekend for Irish basketball.