Newly-promoted Moycullen found that honest effort was not enough to bridge the gap between the National League and Superleague basketball when they opened their new campaign on Saturday evening.
Played at NUIG, Moycullen found the pace quicker when they hosted visitors UL Eagles, and the Limerick side, who were more clinical, eased to an 88-73 victory.
Coach Byrt will have plenty of food for thought. Moycullen conceded 17 offensive rebounds, and found that every mistake was punished by the more experienced Eagles.
However hopes are high that with Garnett Griffin’s return and with the pressures of the first Superleague game out of the way, Moycullen will produce an improved performance when the team hosts a double-header weekend over Halloween.
Last Saturday, in front of a strong home support, Moycullen began the game confidently with John Cunningham scoring their first Superleague points off a fine assist from Mike Dowd. However they struggled to deal with UL Eagles’ giant Welsh centre, 6’ 11’’ Stu Robbins.
Despite a solid game plan, the practical proved more difficult than the theory as Robbins’ size and his solid post moves saw him deliver 10 first-quarter points. Limerick’s experienced guards, Scotty Kinevane and Matt Hall, exploited Robbins’ physical advantages to good effect, feeding him regularly and moving the ball to create clear passing lanes. Moycullen dug in and five points from Cian Nihill and four from American Simon Harris, kept them in touch. They trailed by just two as the quarter ran down but, in another early lesson of the challenges involved in Superleague, a three pointer on the buzzer from Rob Lynch stretched the margin to 5, 22-17.
The second quarter followed a similar pattern as Moycullen battled to close the gap and UL Eagles edged ahead again. Both teams scored freely with some superb offensive play. Moycullen closed the gap with three pointers from the impressive Mike Dowd and Mindaugus Kurcenkovas off the bench, but UL Eagles responded to each. When Hall connected on his second three of the quarter, UL Eagles had stretched their lead to 10. A late run of five points from the impressive Puff Summers (in for Simon Harris ) narrowed the gap but it was still eight at the end of the quarter, 48-40.
Although Mike Dowd and Puff Summers pushed the ball well and they initially narrowed the gap, Scotty Kinnevane showed his experience and steadied the ship for Limerick penetrating and setting up Robbins and Stephen King for some easy scores. King connected on nine points for the quarter as they matched Moycullen score for score and then stretched further ahead. Moycullen had their worst period of the game as they slipped to a 17-points deficit at the quarter’s end, 74-57.
However, in an encouraging sign of pride and defiance, they dug their heels in and finally found a way of slowing the Limerick offence. Some full-court pressure forced some turnovers and they found a way of getting Simon Harris involved offensively. He duly delivered with some impressive drives from the top of the key and and, briefly, a comeback looked possible. However, Kinnevane and Hall again took charge and, running the high pick-and-roll to perfection, they got to the foul line or set up Robbins inside to close out a comfortable 88-73 victory.
Moycullen: Cian Nihill (16 ), Simon Harris (14 ), Michael Dowd (9 ), Puff Summers (9 ), John Cunningham (8 ), Mindaugus Kurcenkovas (7 ), Nollaig Cunningham (6 ), James Loughnane (4 ), Glenn Hynes, Eoghan Maxwell, Paul O’Brien, James Brophy. Coach: Enda Byrt.
UL Eagles: Stu Robbins (29 ), Matt Hall (15 ), Stephen King (12 ), Scott Kinevane (11 ), Neil Campbell (9 ), Rob Lynch (8 ), Aidan Holden (4 ), Bobby Reidy, Mark Paulauskas, Andrew Dawson, Coach: Tony Hehir.