Moycullen basketballers begin their inaugural Superleague campaign this weekend.
After more than 10 years at National League level, they will step on the court in the Kingfisher gym on Saturday (6pm ) against Superleague veterans and conference rivals UL Eagles.
Although new to the challenge, Moycullen will have aspirations to progress to the knockout stages. The top three teams in each pool of five will qualify for the end of season play-offs. Moycullen’s pool includes last year’s champions, Blue Demons from Cork, Neptune, also from Cork, Saturday’s opponents UL Eagles from Limerick, and Hoops from Dublin
Moycullen’s entry into the Superleague has been boosted by the arrival of American stars. Simon Harris from North Carolina State and Puff Summers from Davidson University, who was brought to Ireland by Ballina a couple of years ago, are expected to make their competitive debuts for the club. Their experience, and that of returning Superleague star Michael Dowd, will boost what is a young local side, now coached by Enda Byrt.
Dowd and James Loughnane are reported to be going well throughout the pre-season and their ability to disrupt the Limerick guards’ rhythm will have a major inpact on the game.
However it will not be an easy task against an experienced Limerick outfit led by senior international Scott Kinevane at point guard. Although only 22, Kinevane has been a Superleague starter since he was 16 and is widely recognised as one of the leading Irish players in the league over the last several years. He can be a dominating performer from the point spot and Moycullen cannot afford to allow him dictate the pace of the game on Saturday.
Harris is expected to lead the offence, and his ability to score close to the hoop should give space for his teammates on the perimeter, particularly last year’s top scorer Cian Nihill.
Harris is looking forward to the challenge. “It’s a young team, but a talented group,” he says. “ We have a lot of guys who can step up on the team and everybody is extremely focused for Saturday’s game. If we can play the game at our pace, getting up and down the court quickly, Limerick will find it hard to match all the speed and scoring options that we have.
“It should be a fantastic game. Hopefully the gym will be rocking and we’ll put play the way I know we can,”
Much will depend on how Moycullen cope mentally with the challenge, but if they can play this game with the same winning mentality and confidence they have possessed for the past few seasons in Division 1, they have all the tools to begin their campaign with a win.
Coach Enda Byrt is still waiting for news on whether centre Garnett Griffin will be fit for Saturday’s clash. Griffin’s scoring touch and ability to run the court was crucial last season, and his absence would be a big blow for the home side.
However Moycullen can count on veteran John Cunningham. One of the few remaining members from Moycullen’s first division one team over a decade ago, Cunningham remains crucial to the Moycullen senior set-up, and his leadership will be needed again this season.
Team captain Nollaig Cunningham is urginbg all Galway sports fans to help the team get the perfect start.
“It should be a fantastic evening and a great contest. We are really hoping for a win and there is nothing like having a vocal crowd urging the team on. All the lads just can’t wait to get out there on Saturday now and actually play the match, which should be a cracker.
“It will be a really tight game that could come right down to the wire and if it does, I’ve always fancied our chances in a close game.”
The game tips off at 6pm on Saturday in the Kingfisher gym on the NUIG campus.