It was the stuff dreams are made of in Tralee on Saturday evening, after a rollercoaster of a ride through the Men’s Super League 2018/19 season, Garvey’s Tralee Warriors were finally crowned champions at their home court.
The Kerry men came through one of the toughest finishing runs to a season ever, meeting Templeogue two weeks ago at home, going on to a double header weekend against Neptune and Moycullen, before finishing with an incredible double header weekend against UCD Marian this weekend – and finally, their efforts were rewarded as they ran out 88-73 point winners over the Dubliners tonight.
There were heroes across the court for the Kerry men – Kieran Donaghy led the charge from the front, dropping threes at crucial stages of the game and fighting hard on every defense. Keith Jumper, Fergal O’Sullivan and young star and newly crowned local hero, Rapolas Buivydas were also some of the stand out players in a team full of stand out players. When one man was down, the next stepped up, and they did so in style this evening.
Coming off the back of a tough and hard-fought overtime battle against UCD In Dublin last night, Tralee knew they had it all ahead of them today but again, the Warriors heart shone through and a massive first half performance, that saw them drive into a 55-35 point half time lead, laid the foundations of what was to come. Reigning champions UCD were not lying down easily though and a late surge led by the pacey Elijah Mays saw them close the gap as the clock ticked down, but the work had already been done and as the fourth quarter began to tick down, celebrations were in full swing for the capacity crowd.
“Last night was the winning of it really,” admitted Kieran Donaghy afterwards. “We finished with five Tralee lads on the floor last night with other lads in foul trouble and that win, that overtime win, was the winning of it. We knew we had the sixth man in the crowd down here tonight. This is what we wanted when we started this. We wanted something the whole town could get behind and it’s been a long road, a tough journey of ups and downs, but we got here.”
Fergal O’Sullivan added: “This is everything – everything to us. You see how many kids are here. This is everything for the town and everything for the development of the next generation.
An emotional head coach, Pat Price added: “If you don’t dream it won’t happen – and we have been dreaming about this moment all season. This kind of thing doesn’t happen by accident. I’m delighted for them they’ve earned it and that’s how it should happen – you should earn it. UCD were defending champions and they weren’t going to roll over, but I’m just so happy and proud of the lads.”
Elsewhere, UCC Demons lost out to Pyrobel Killester in their last regular season game of the weekend, 74-99, with Alex Herreros and Luis Garcia Filiberto Hoyos the standouts for the Dubliners on the day.
Over in the Women’s Super League meanwhile, Singleton Supervalu Brunell have secured a semi-final berth in the WSL Champions Trophy against the league champions Courtyard Liffey Celtics next weekend thanks to a 70-62 defeat of Cork neighbours Ambassador UCC Glanmire this afternoon.
“It certainly wasn’t the prettiest game,” Brunell coach Tim O’Halloran said after the win. “Neither team had control for any period, it was a lot of back and forth but we did enough to hold out in the end.”
Danielle O’Leary led the way in the first half, knocking down three threes on her way to a game-high 19 points. While
Brunell were behind by four at the first half, a big shot from O’Leary before the interval gave her side the initiative going into the dressing rooms. Glanmire put a run together in the opening stages of the third quarter, but two big threes from Amy Murphy pegged the deficit back to see the sides separated by on once more going into the last.
Glanmire took an early lead in the fourth, but Brunell’s Tricia Byrne was the standout in the closing stages, pushing the tempo and leading her side from six behind to eight ahead with four minutes to play and they drove on from there to see a rematch of this year’s Women’s National Cup final next weekend.
“We know at this stage what Liffey are about,” O’Halloran continued. “It’s just a matter of going in at this stage, looking after their threats and seeing if we can get a result. I have every confidence in the girls that they’ll do it.”
In the Men’s Division One meanwhile DBS Éanna will return to the Men’s Super League for the 2019/2020 season thanks to a thrilling 73-67 victory over Abbey Seals Dublin Lions in the Men’s Division One National League final in Waterford today. Éanna dominated the early exchanges, but Lions came roaring back to make it a nerve-wracking conclusion to the league.
“We played 25 games this season and won 24 and lost one,” said head coach, Darren McGovern afterwards. “That’s league winners material right there. We’re dead proud of ourselves and of every player, every backroom member, the committee, the club – the whole of Éanna: they really pushed hard this season to help us achieve what we wanted to achieve from day one.
“We came out of the blocks flying, and I was very impressed with our energy levels. We got open shots and easy layups and Dublin Lions were not at the races at the beginning of the game, but, my God, did they change it around and give us a massive fright. We were absolutely under the cosh, there’s no doubt about it. The spirit in that Dublin Lions club is fantastic, but we’re a squad that wants to go back to the Super League. We’re a squad that can maintain Super League so with a few additions, we’re going to be a strong outfit next season.”