It should never have been this close but Niamh Dwyer and Ariel Johnson got the work done to get Fr Mathew’s past Liffey Celtics and into their first ever Irish Cup final
Fr Mathew’s made history to reach the Irish Cup final for the first time in their history. It took a star role from Ariel Johnson and Niamh Dwyer dragging her teammates out of a funk but they overcame Liffey Celtics to make history.
A matter of mechanics
Cup semi finals are naturally nervy affairs but this was something else. The shooting mechanics from Liffey Celtics in the opening minutes against Fr Mathew’s were ghastly. I’m talking people that don’t know anything about how a ball is meant to leave the hands ugly. Considering the talent at their disposal, it was an unusual way for their nerves to show.
One standard six footer changed it. Áine O’Connor was open for a base line jumper midway through the first quarter and she made it without fuss. The rest of her team woke up and the game was much the better for it. Shots get missed in basketball. Lots of them do. Losing the core capacity to even take one isn’t ideal for any observer.
Upon Liffey settling, it proved to be a genuinely entertaining affair. Gritty, naturally, but it was proper basketball.
Just when she thought she was out
Niamh Dwyer was, on paper at least, retired as a player. She was purely a coach for Fr Mathew’s. That was until she wasn’t and called in Pat Price to aid with the bench duties so she could get back on the floor and cook.
An early three ball for her in the second quarter sparked a 15-0 run from Fr Mathew’s to take a surprising stranglehold on the game. There’s almost a tradition in the women’s cup semi finals that one of them would have an upset. There was no doubt which side was the biggest underdog coming into the weekend but Dwyer was unphased.
A turnaround jumper from Gráinne Dwyer, Niamh’s sister, and there was no doubt which team was playing smoother. The most worrying sign for Liffey Celtics was the near irrelevance of Rachel Huijsdens on contested balls. The Ireland international centre managed just one rebound in a first half where she barely sat. This was far from normal.
BallinEurope is ramping up its YouTube game this season. Subscribe to our channel now for player exclusives, analysis videos, and much more.
Ariel Johnson gets cooking
Ariel Johnson had hardly been quiet in the first half but she took over early in the third quarter. The former Loyola Marymount standout made a pair of early threes to push her side into a 16 point lead.
Fr Mathew’s really should have been out of sight. Indeed, they should have been before the half. Liffey Celtics, the side with serious league championship ambitions, were an utter mess. Their stars were making no impact on the game and they were a shambles on the defensive end.
Yet, even with Ariel Johnson cooking, the Cork side couldn’t put this one to bed. Time and again they let Liffey Celtics slowly reel them in. This was not what an underdog could even contemplate risking.BallinEurope has a book, a real life actual book called I Like it Loud, and you can buy it on Amazon now. It’s here as a book and here in Kindle form.
How did this even happen?
Almost 4 minutes went by in the final quarter before Fr Mathew’s got their first score of the grame, through Gráinne Dwyer at the line. Ariel Johnson settled the nerves briefly as her and-1 play briefly gave her side a 6 point lead but the rundown was on. Áine O’Connor’s finish inside cut the deficit to the minimum. Somehow, this had become a proper contest. When Allie Naverette tied things up, it was a case of who’d be the better side in just 4 minutes of hoops.
It was time for Niamh Dwyer to step up. A corner three raised the roof. Then came the offensive board with four Liffey Celtics players around her that led to another Johnson score with the bonus. A defensive board with the game in the balance turned into a full length court pass to set up Johnson once more.
Sorcha Tiernan had a chance to tie it and force overtime. All she got was iron. Liffey Celtics out. Fr Mathew’s advance.