The most prestigious weekend of the basketball calendar The All Ireland Club Championships for U-14 and U-16 boys and girls took place over eight venues all over Ireland this weekend.
Joanne Downey Reports:
St Marys were very proud to again have four out of eight teams representing Kerry in these competitions.
Our U-14 boys travelled to Cork where they competed in the U-14A Boys AICC. They had four pool games winning one against Letterkenny Blaze and narrowly missing out to Liffey Celtics, Moycullen and Ballincollig. Moycullen were overall winners of the tournament. Well done to the boys and to their coach Michael Broderick on such a determined and hard fought display over the weekend. The boys are county league and cup champions this season.
Adam Donoghue Outstanding
Our U-16 boys competed in the U-16A Boys AICC in Dublin. They got off to a hard start meeting a strong Sligo team and they were defeated. The boys picked themselves up and turned the day around immensely with brilliant displays against Moycullen and Blue Demons where they had comprehensive wins.
After another huge battle with Kubs which saw them win on a score line of 44-42 they had booked their place in the Division 1 semi-final against Neptune on Sunday.
Here they played brilliantly throughout with all team members contributing against this strong Neptune side. They fought to the end but were defeated 49-35. The third and fourth place play-off saw a lot of the younger players stepping up and playing so well.
Irish International, Adam Donoghue was the stand out of the tournament with the rest of the team following his example. Well done to all the boys and to their coaches Paudie Fleming and Darragh Jones.
Off To a Great Start
Our U-14 Girls made history over the weekend becoming the first Kerry club to bring home the Division 1 title. They got off to a great start in their pool games with huge wins over Portlaoise, Maree and Liffey Celtics before falling on the Cork sword of Fr Matthews on a score line of 46-35.
On Sunday they booked themselves a semi-final spot against Waterford Wildcats. A brilliant display in the second quarter saw St. Marys push 27-13 ahead at half time. The Cats fought hard to bring it back but St Mary’s ran out worthy winners 33-28. With Fr Matthews advancing in the other semi-final a game of mental preparation was ahead. The girls pushed the defeat of the day before to the back of their minds and were determined to turn the tides. Both teams were hungry for glory and this was apparent as the epic battle unfolded.
Kept Their Composure
St. Mary’s were behind after the first quarter but just ahead at half time by 22-18. The girls kept their composure in the second half and traded basket for basket in the second half. Shauna Ahern and Kayla O’Connor causing Fr Matthews big problems under the boards with their brilliant rebounding and some great scoring from Shauna saw them ahead by four going into the last quarter. Matthews weren’t going to give in too easy and drew level again in the fourth quarter.
Emma O’Regan hit a big three to push St Mary’s ahead by five but Matthews resisted and added three from the free throw line bringing the gap to two. Saoirse Murphy was immense on defense for Mary’s and saved the day with a big steal with 27 seconds to go to keep Mary’s in possession. As the seconds ticked away St Mary’s managed to keep their deserving lead and ran out worthy winners on a score line of 36-34. Huge congratulations to all the players on a huge team performance and to their coach Denny Porter with assistant coach, George O’Connor and team manager, Elaine Moriarty.
Great Skill and Strength
The U-16 team travelled to Limerick to compete in the B Girls AICC. They got off to a great day on Saturday comprehensively beating Donegal Town and Ballina Pacers with all 11 girls contributing to a semi-final spot on Sunday.
In the semi-final they met Dunshauglin Rockets and again the girls showed great skill and strength with all players contributing to a 38-14 win. The Division 1 final was always on the cards as being a cracker as Ulster Elks had beaten a strong Limerick Celtics side on their way to the final. Here too, St Mary’s got off to a good start and were stamping their authority on the game with some good baskets by Labhaoise Walmsley with St Mary’s leading 14-11 at the end of the quarter.
The second quarter was a poor one for St Mary’s with Elks hitting a lot of scores through their Irish international, Enya Maguire who put nine points on the board for her side pushing them 22-18 ahead at half time.
Fast Break Baskets
St Marys upped the tempo in the third quarter with two fast break baskets coming from Sarah O’Sullivan and Emma Dineen and a big three from Nicole Downey saw St Mary’s still behind 36-33 at the end of the third. St Mary’s really stepped up defensively in the final quarter with Aoife O’Connor playing a great role on Maguire and Darya O’Connell proving too strong with her great rebounding while Sarah O’Sullivan added another fast break at the other end.
It seemed to be in Elks hands with 2.30 left on the clock but Nicole Downey hit another three pointer and Labhaoise added a basket to push their side ahead by a single point. With less than a minute to go Aoife O’ Connor added the last basket to seal the win for the St Mary’s side as they regained possession and they outscored Elks 12-6 in this quarter. This saw them run out worthy winners on a scoreline of 45-42. Labhaoise Walmsley 11, Nicole Downey 10, Sarah O’Sullivan 10, Emma Dineen 9. Well done to all the girls on their wonderful achievements. Team coaches: Eamon Egan, Joanne Walmsley and Joanne Downey.
Special Thanks to Sponsors
The club would like to thank everyone who organised and attended the homecoming on Sunday evening in the town centre. It was lovely to see the girls getting the attention they deserve as for some it was their third All Ireland medal in just 12 months between club and school while others picked up their first of many yet to come. Special thanks to Jack Shanahan’s Haven Pharmacy and to DenJoes American Style for their sponsorship.