The haymakers were traded, so too the runs, as Ballincollig and Éanna threw everything they had in their arsenals at each other with a cup final spot on the line but Mark Reynolds proved the X factor for the Dublin side as Éanna booked their place in Ireland’s showpiece game
The last game of Irish Cup semi final day is a strange one to cover, at least at the start. Having watched, written about, edited, recorded video, uploaded, and published a bunch of stuff across the three preceding encounters (2 women’s and 1 men’s so far) the fatigue of the day and the hope to be out in time to get a pint before grabbing the bus home takes over. Then, a few minutes in, you noticed that an under-manned Éanna side is looking far from under-manned and is giving Ballincollig, the de facto home side, a bit of a battering to start things off.
Alright, sometimes the last game of the day is a one-sided laugher but this was at least not the start that those in Neptune Stadium were expecting. For all the Croat (Kristijan Andabaka), Serb (Stefan Desnica), and American (Joshua Wilson) it was the grey haired Irishman Mark Reynolds who proved the inspiration through an early run to put them into a double digit lead in the middle of the first. Éanna have one of the broadest mix of nationalities of any side in the Super League with Romonn Nelson (UK) and Alex Dolenko (Ukraine) adding to the mix.
It was the Spanish duo of Pau Cami Galera and Jose Jimenez Gonzales that kept it manageable for Ballincollig for most of the quarter but the Cork club ended the frame fully aware it needed to step up a gear.
Gonzalez was the first player to reach double figures on the night. That was the good news. The bad news was that while he had reached 10 points by early in the second quarter, the rest of his team mates had only managed 7 between them.
Finally the support came from Keelin Cairns as his three brought it back to a one possession game. John Dawson took that as a wake-up call and made his first bucket of the day soon after. With Éanna doing work, we finally had the track meet that we hoped for. Remarkably, Ballincollig took their first lead of the night with 0.2 seconds left in the half from a Dawson free throw.
BallinEurope is ramping up its YouTube game this season. Subscribe to our channel now for player exclusives, analysis videos, and much more.
A trio of Dawson threes sandwiching a breakaway dunk at the start of the third and there was no doubt that the former Liberty and Marquette man had woken up. When he got heavy coverage, Keelin Cairns took over and the lead stretched to 12 by the middle of the frame.
Éanna finally started putting together consecutive good possession towards the back end of the third and a Stefan Desnica three inspired them into making a game of this once more. A breakaway score by Reynolds brought it back to one possession before a Wilson tip-in at the buzzer to end the third made it as you were and Ballincollig only led by the minimum.
Nelson restored the lead for Éanna from deep to start the fourth. Gonzalez tied it up and we were in a slobberknocker. Back and forth it ran through the midway point of the quarter. No room to breathe at either end or on the scoreboard. Reynolds, who else. The man who turns 39 in a few days made it a 6 point lead and finally some punches weren’t being answered.
If ever an and-1 opportunity felt important, Gonzalez got to the line off a bucket with 3.28 to play and we were back to one possession ball again but Reynolds was having none of it. He pushed it out again before whacking his arse into Dylan Corkery at the top of the key on a possession that led to a Neil Lynch three and Éanna were up 8 with 2.03 to play. Ballincollig tried to claw it back but they just didn’t have enough. Éanna held on to set up a big date with University of Galway Maree in Tallaght in a fortnight.