UL Eagles soared to the top of the Nivea for Men’s Superleague table at the weekend with a comprehensive 84 to 59 win over old rivals Killester in Limerick.
They were quickly joined at the top by UCC Demons who overcame a depleted Dublin Inter side in Cork while there were also wins for UCD Marian, who scraped by a resilient Bord Gais Neptune outfit and DCU Saints who returned to winning ways with a good victory over Moycullen.
In the Nivea Women’s Superleague surprises were few and far between with University of Limerick, DCU Mercy, WIT Wildcats and Team Montenotte Hotel all securing good wins.
Speaking after the Killester Eagles game Saturday night, UL head coach Mark Keenan found it difficult to criticise any part of his team’s performance in what turned out to be a resounding win.
“We won all the battles really. It was a dominant performance. We got off to a great start and that set the mindset for the rest of the game. We blew the game open early and never really looked back,” said Keenan.
The performance was much needed by Eagles, who despite winning the double last season, struggled in the early stages of that campaign. With the new league format this season abolishing playoffs, Eagles can ill-afford another poor pre-Christmas run of form.
A win such as Saturday night’s over perennial contenders Killester should do a lot to raise the confidence in the defending champion’s camps following a shaky performance in the opener the week before where they were forced to overturn a big deficit to beat Bord Gais Neptune with a last second shot.
Unfortunately for Neptune, they were on the wrong side of another tight one Saturday night again, losing in a close affair away from home against UCD Marian. Tight throughout, Marian were able to find their shooting form when it mattered most to pull away by six points in the end, winning 70 to 64.
“I thought we deserved to win the game. It was the second game in a row that we have played good defence and that is what I want this team to be based on,” said Marian head coach Sasa Punosevac.
“We didn’t score a lot outside in the first half but in the final quarter we started to make some shots and that turned the game for us.”
Meanwhile DCU Saints avoided a second surprise defeat in as many weeks by overturning a half time deficit at home against Moycullen to win comfortably 81 60.
Buoyed by the return of influential centre Martins Provisors, who missed week one with a broken cheekbone, Saints clamped down on Moycullen’s early rhythm as the game entered the latter stages.
“We took over in the second half. Moycullen played well in the first and caught us with a number of three pointers in transition as well as punishing us whenever we stuck a hand in,” remarked Saints head coach Dave Donnelly.
“At the break we stressed just honest defence and knuckled down. Martins back was a big factor and Mike Trimmer had a lot of success posting up for us.”
A veteran of many campaigns, Trimmer managed to finish as top scorer with 18 points despite coming off the bench while fellow seasoned campaigner Pat Glover chipped in with 14.
Sunday’s sole game in the Nivea for Men’s Superleague turned out to be somewhat less dramatic than many would have hoped as UCC Demons showed their class to clinically dispose of an under-strength Dublin Inter team 102 to 70.
After the game, Demons head coach Paul Kelleher praised his side’s team work and ability to share to ball. “Our decision making was very sharp and even though we started slow, when we did get going we punished them for not punishing us early on when they had their chances.”
In the Nivea Women’s Superleague form held true despite a brief scare for Team Montenotte Hotel Cork against Meteors and a bizarre pre-game mix up for DCU Mercy and Ulster Rockets when their assigned referees travelled to Waterford instead of Belfast for the game.
In the latter encounter, Mercy managed to hold their nerve amidst the confusion to claim a 70 to 52 victory. While head coach Mark Ingle was quick to point out that his side had a long way to go to achieve their potential he was content to note that a number of youngsters were able to gain valuable experience while still earning a win as a total of four players made their Superleague debut.
The closest opening weekend game in the Nivea Women’s Superleague took place in the Glanmire Sports Centre where Meteors of Dublin fell just short of pulling off a stunning comeback against home side Team Montenotte Hotel Cork.
Leading 35 points to 20 at halftime, the Cork ladies saw their lead whittled down steadily as the game reached its conclusion before holding on for a nine point win on a scoreline of 61 to 52.
“We had a comfortable lead and I think we got complacent which allowed them to fight back which in all credit to Meteors, they did. They made some shots, we missed some and before you knew it it was a close game,” said Montenotte head coach Andrea Congreaves.
While coach Congreaves charted up her team’s second half performance as a “learning experience” she will know that against the top teams in this league, such losses of concentration are unlikely to be rewarded with a similar result to the one earned Saturday night.
Elsewhere in the Nivea Women’s Superleague Univiersity of Limerick carried forward the form from last season that saw them win the cup and league with an impressive 21 point win over Killester while WIT Wildcats easily saw off the challenge of Liffey Celtics, winning 69 points to 38.