National Basketball President’s Cup Final
IT Carlow v Tradehouse Central Ballincollig
National Basketball Arena, Tallaght, Saturday 3.30pm
IT Carlow meet runaway Division 1 league leaders Tradehouse Central Ballincollig in the final of the National Presidents Cup in Tallaght on Saturday knowing they will have to produce the performance of the season if they are to beat the Cork team who have 15 wins out of 15 in the national league. That run includes a 77-50 over Ulster University at the weekend.
In contrast, Carlow are in fifth place in that competition with seven wins out of 12. When the two met in October in Cork, it was the home side who prevailed 93-60.
The President’s Cup, which is confined exclusively to Division 1 sides, has seen Carlow record three convincing wins to qualify for the final with Duane Harper scoring 38 points in their 89-60 semi-final win over Fr Mathews.
“It has been a good month and a half for us,” says coach Martin Conroy. “The catalyst is the way we started playing. Aaron Whelan is back too after picking up an injury last season. We missed his pace and the way he gets up and down the floor. Having him back, the whole mindset has changed. We are a lot faster with the ball and we defend a lot better. The pace of the game is down to Aaron and everyone else around him.”
Local interest centres around Latvian-native Rolands Vaikula who has been living locally for 10 years now. Sean Broderick is a 17-year-old student in Gaelcholáiste Cheatharlach from the Kilkea area who Conroy speaks very highly of.
“He has been a very big part for our squad. He does a fantastic job coming off the bench. We were down a few players recently and he actually started a few games in a row and has done fantastically.”
The coach is more than confident his side can win this one.
“We know we can compete with them. We know we are a better team than the last time we played them. We can definitely put it up to them and if we play our best basketball we can beat them. It is as simple as that,” he says.
Meanwhile, the IT Carlow women’s team were in action in the Super League at the weekend, going down 104-76 to Fr Mathews. Top scorers for IT Carlow were Alyssa Velles (30), Kaitlyn Slagus (24), Holli Dunne (10).