Maigh Cuilinn’s Superleague credentials on the line in play-off

It is win or go down for Maigh Cuilinn’s Superleague basketballers this Sunday (4pm ) as they head into their relegation play-off game against UCD Marian in Dublin’s National Basketball Arena.

For this current crop of senior players from the Galway club, it is the biggest game of their careers.

Their survival in the top flight, which has been enjoyed by Maigh Culinn since 2009, is on the line. They face a UCD Marian outfit that will have the benefit of a de-facto home advantage on the ‘neutral’ court of the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght. Maigh Cuilinn is running supporters buses (details on www.MoycullenBasketball.Net ), but the Galway club is still almost certain to be outnumbered in the stands.

Given Maigh Cuilinn’s sterling home record in recent weeks, but struggles on the road, it will be one of the big challenges for John Cunningham’s charges.

However Maigh Cuilinn can look with some confidence to the only previous meeting between these two teams to date this season, and in dogged defensive struggle in Galway in late December Maigh Cuilinn battled through to win by a 17-point margin.

While that game was much tighter than that scoreline might suggest, the intensity of the Maigh Cuilinn defence definitely had the better of their opponents on that occasion.

However, that game is difficult to use as a barometer for this weekend’s encounter. Maigh Cuilinn’s star American player Grant Olsson, who is in outstanding form recently, sat out most of the contest with foul trouble, while UCD Marian’s top scorer, Florida native Jonathan Jean, missed the game entirely as he had to return Stateside for a family emergency.

With that caveat noted, Maigh Cuilinn did show signs their defensive structure can contain their opponents on Sunday. That was most evident in a stand-out third quarter that day in December when they held UCD Marian to just two points. It was that period of dominance which was the ultimate source of their relatively comfortable win in the end.

Their opponents on Sunday will of course be a different beast, playing essentially at a home venue and with the presence of their main man Jean. While he may stand only 5’10”, Jean is an excellent professional - now in his fourth season playing in Europe [this his first in Ireland], and he has lit the league alight, scoring more than 29 points per game.

Maigh Cuilinn’s most likely candidates to take on the role of containing him are Kyle Cunningham and Matteo Liberatore, and how they fare will go a long way to determining Sunday’s result.

Another factor will be Maigh Cuilinn’s mindset. While UCD Marian would have known for some time this game was their destiny, Maigh Cuilinn’s recent run of winning three of their final four home games came ever so close to keeping them clear of this final relegation play-off, and so how they deal now with that disappointment may be telling.

Two narrow losses on the road in the last two weeks where they fell by six away to Sligo and 12 to Killorglin in Kerry ultimately cost them guaranteed safety.

They will hope a large travelling support can assist in them gaining momentum on the day, and supporters buses are leaving from An Fuaran in Maigh Cuilinn village at 12:30pm with €15 the cost for the bus and game entry combo. Full details on www.MoycullenBasketball.Net

UG Maree

Top seeds University of Galway Maree and UCC Demons meet in Calasanctus College in a game that is sure to contain some shadow boxing, with the forthcoming play-offs in mind.

Both sides have already claimed the first and second seedings, the order to be decided at the weekend.

Danny O’Mahony’s Demons are the form team in the country with a 10-game win streak in tow, but Charlie Crowley’s National Cup champions have won six on the spin themselves.

The key matchup is likely to be Michael Randolph Jr’s offensive excellence against Rodrigo Gomez’ defensive solidity.


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