Rodrigo Gomez did most of his work in the first 20 minutes and that, in truth, was enough, as University of Galway Maree reached the Irish Cup final with a comprehensive win over St Vincent’s
Donovan Fields didn’t read the script. This game had massacre written all over it pre-game. University of Galway Maree had ridiculous size, ridiculous depth, and a really good record. Field’s St Vincent’s had none of those and it was meant to be academic. Then Fields went on a personal 8-0 run at the start of the game and there was hope that we could have all been very wrong.
That feeling lasted about 5 minutes before the real Maree reminded all in attendance why they are favourites to win everything. Jarett Haines (Wheeling) runs the point, the 6’10 Zvonimir Cutuk (Croatia) is a beast who happily defers to Rodrigo Gomes (Spain) the nominal PF but really prone to alternating with Cutuk between there and the C because this is his show and the bearded bad bad man tells you the way it’s gonna be.
A Haines shot looked like it might not go in? No worries, Gomes is up his backside to dunk it. A little ill-communication in the paint? The Spaniard stepped outside to nail an open three. Going at him physically only seemed to be a recipe to send him to the line as nobody on the Vincent’s side looked capable of matching up to him athletically.
That depth makes it easier for a man like Gomez to operate. Maree could leave starting grade talent like Cathal Finn and Paul Freeman to sit and clap for the bulk of the opening quarter while the shallow Vincent’s roster felt the weight of Gomez’s might. The strong had gotten even stronger lately with Zach Light (Colgate) joining the roster to spell for Haines. The lead was soon double digits.
That Maree took the floor in warm up tops with “Doubters to Believers” written across the back seemed almost laughable. Nobody in Irish basketball is doubting them this season. Charlie Crowley is a young coach but he has assembled a remarkable roster by Super League standards and one that knows everyone has a role to play.
By the end of the first quarter, it already felt like an absolute clobbering.
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Gomez went right back to work to start the second. Dunk to bring him to double digits on the day. Haines, who had yet to sit, was already there. When he finally sat, Cutuk was happy to take charge as the lone big, getting it done from deep, inside, and at the line.
In truth the only semblance of drama was when Light brushed aside Crowley as the Maree coach spoke with him to go over to seek counsel from Haines. Given the friendly pat on the head from Crowley when Light sat, whatever it was it was hardly Harry Saxe-Coburg-Gotha grade drama.
Gomez needed less than a minute of the third to secure his double-double. It was remarkable that he could even stand out amongst a side that simply had so many ways to hurt its opponents. Without him, they wouldn’t be as dominant a force as they are but would surely still be favoured in near every game they play. Eoin Rockall, the captain and a stalwart of this side, is arguably only the fourth shooting option when he’s on the floor but he found plenty of room to create, with 6 first half assists. The biggest problem Crowley seems to have is ensuring everyone gets enough action to stay focused.
There was a wobble. Through the middle portion of the third through to its conclusion, Maree looked wildly unfocused on offence and Vincent’s caused a string of turnovers in the paint. It’s happened before this season, they let an enormous lead slip in defeat to Killester in the Super League. This side, while awesome, is far from invincible.
Whatever adjustments were required were fixed in the break between quarters. Maree were far from boat racing the fine frame but they never allowed Vincent’s to feel the hope they briefly had again. On to the final and, with the exit of Vincent’s, a certainty that a new name will be on the cup. The only question is which.