Third hosted second in the Irish men’s superleague on Friday night and Emmet Ryan saw two teams who really want to push the tempo
It’s been a pretty crazy six days for Swords Thunder. First they hosted and beat fourth placed Tralee Warriors last weekend. Then they headed to the arena in Tallaght on Wednesday to take on league leaders Templeogue in the cup. They won that too. The Thunder’s week of hell ended last night in University College Dublin where they had to take on a similarly high paced outfit in third placed UCD Marian.
The pace was stupid, far too fast for either side to be comfortable and the 29-28 lead held by UCD at the end of it was arbitrary. This was just two sides going full tilt at an unsustainable pace. Jose Gil Narbon and Justin Goldsborough were giving Swords a nice combo option inside, Narbon showing the type of on-ball IQ not usually found at this level. In the second frame the high tempo seemed to be suiting Thunder more and we finally saw these sides switch things up.
With his side dowm 6, UCD coach Ioannis Liapakis made a literslly big move. James Brophy is a meaty undersized big who could clog up the middle and slow the game down. The move had the desired impact, making for more of a dusty and gritty affair before Thunder coach Dave Baker responded by going to a three guard line-up if Isaac Westbrooks, Alex Calvexe, and Charlie Coombes. The pace remained a bit too much and the visitors took a half-time lead of 51-50.
100+ point halves aren’t exactly common in the Irish league and, for Thunder, the fatigue of the previous week started to show early in the third frame. Liapakis had sat his primary import Mike Garrow for the whole second quarter, firing him in fresh for the third as the home side took comtrol. Swords got it together before the end of the frame to be back on level terms at 65-65 with 10 minutes to play.
A couple of threes but the hosts back on top by a couple of possessions before the reason this game was on a Friday not a Saturday got shared publicly. A former UCD player, Mick Chubb, was getting married on the Saturday and the clesr run for the session needed to be made.
Swords finally calmed down their offence midway through the final frame, having been over eager to begin the quarter, and a couple of crucial plays by Calvexe and Narbon when up by two possessions proved decisive. With time running out, Calvexe appeared to suffered a facial injury. Westbrooks, playing on-court doctor, inspected: “Nah you’re okay. Still ugly.” Thunder took the W 88-79 to complete the gauntlet.
The result also keeps Thunder crucially within a single loss of Templeogue in the race for the regular season title. The third loss on the docket for UCD Marian, now 8-3 at the mid-point of the season, leaves the championship outside their control but still in fine health for making the end of year playoffs.
The big question ahead of both these sides is when they will see each other next. Along with Killester and Moycullen, they await the semi finals draw for the national cup. The three Dublin clubs and lone Galway outfit will travel to Cork to earn a trip to Tallaght. We should know the shake-up in a matter of days.