In an impressive reflection of the current strength of Galway basketball, local teams, An Cearnog Nua, Moycullen and Titans go head to head in the division one National Basketball Cup on Saturday in Castleisland.
The two teams, along with another Connacht outfit Ballina Braves, who play St Mary’s Tralee, make up the four semi-finalists in this premiere event.
In addition Maree Basketball Club continues to fly the flag at underage with the club’s u-18s facing St Vincent and the u-20s up against Belfast Star.
Both Moycullen and Titans teams have been flying high in the division, sharing a combined record of 19-4 between them. An Cearnog Nua, Moycullen have the edge, both on the table and in the teams’ only meeting of the season so far, but Titans have put an impressive run of victories together since their defeat in the early season local derby.
In the derby game Titans held the upper hand for long periods, but Moycullen's greater craft and experience saw them through to a comfortable 12-point victory. The balance, however, has shifted slightly in Titans’ favour with the addition of 6' 7'' Canadian, David O'Keefe to their roster. This, combined with the absence of Glenn Hynes (out of the country ) and John Cunningham (broken wrist ) for An Cearnog Nua, Moycullen, could well swing the favourites’ tag to Titans.
However, even in adversity, Moycullen have always found a way to win these contests, and they will battle for all their worth to continue the pattern and secure a place in the final against either Ballina or St Mary’s Castleisland.
The game offers a number of interesting contrasts. Moycullen rely heavily on young home grown talent - all but two of the squad are u-22 with nine of last year’s u-20 National Cup winning team on show. Titans put out a starting five of two Lithuanians, a Canadian, ex Ballina Superleague star Paul Freeman, and Danny Finn from Oranmore. Titans are less experienced in division one terms, but they have moulded into a formidable outfit, scoring freely against all opposition. Moycullen have built their run of success around excellent lock-down defence, inspired by their Polish coach Zbigniew Mardon.
Thus this game sees youth v experience, home grown players v import, offence v defence - contrasts which add to the already fascinating nature of the derby contest. Arguably it will be the highlight in a festival weekend of cup basketball.
In a final twist, regardless of the outcome, the two teams will square off again in league action, the following Saturday at 4pm in NUIG.
Basketball Ireland Men’s National Cup semi-final schedule: Maree u-18s v St Vincent’s 12noon; Titans v An Cearnog Nua Moycullen 4pm; Loftus Recycling Ballina v Team Garvey’s St Mary’s 6pm; Maree u-20s v Belfast Star 8pm.