Maigh Cuilinn need a big home support against visitors Belfast Star

Maigh Cuilinn Basketball look for back-to-back home wins when Belfast Star roll into town for a 3pm Sunday tip off in the University of Galway Sports Arena

The Connemara side enjoyed a victory in its home opener two weekends ago thanks to a composed performance when leading from start to finish against Killorglin of Kerry. This weekend will demand an even better performance, however, against perennial contenders Belfast Star, who have enjoyed a blistering start to the season.

While Maigh Cuilinn have bookended their home win with road losses in Cork last weekend to Neptune and in Kerry the first weekend of the season to Tralee, Belfast Star have proved to be a juggernaut, disposing of St Vincent's (Dublin ), Sligo, and Killester to date.

Last season Maigh Cuilnin and Star met once only in a cracker of a contest up north. A single score separated the teams for the vast majority of the game before a blistering 10-0 run at the end saw Star grab a nine-point win.

Maigh Cuilinn would be delighted to get themselves in a similar position this time around and be in contention as the game nears conclusion, with the hope that their home support could swing the momentum this time towards the Galwegians.

Key for Maigh Cuilinn will be containing the dynamic guard combo of Belfast Star, comprising the experienced senior international duo of Conor and Aidan Quinn, and American sharpshooter Deondre Jackson.

Star play an attractive brand of basketball based on quick decision making and exploiting minor advantages. They can be a joy to watch when firing on all cylinders. But Maigh Cuilinn fans will be hoping perhaps that they save their best champagne basketball for a different weekend.

If the game can enjoy the drama of last weekend, then it will be worth the admission fee in any case.

Maigh Cuilinn came out just the wrong side of a thriller in Cork last weekend after a rousing second-half comeback away to Neptune.Maigh Cuilinn closed within five points with four minutes remaining, but they never managed to grab the lead and lost 88-80.

The omens looked bleak early in the contest for a Maigh Cuilinn side that had won their home season opener the weekend before against a tough Killorglin outfit and they had travelled to the rebel county with more hope than years past. After just 10 minutes of play, they trailed a red hot Neptune 27-18 and then proceeded to deliver a second quarter from hell, scoring only 13 points and conceding a mammoth 31 to trail at the half 58-31.

Having been on the receiving end of some sizeable losses in Cork in recent seasons, Maigh Cuilinn could well have been forgiven for allowing their collective minds to wander to the bus home. Testament to the travelling squad, however. They came out of the dressing room a team possessed and immediately put the home team on notice that it was not going to be a casual stroll to a comfy finish.

Neptune head coach Colin O’Reilly summed matters up when he said Maigh Cuilinn simply “dominated the physical battle and took us out of our rhythm”.

A more selective and clinical offensive showing also allowed Maigh Cuilinn to find better balanced shots in attack, which in turn put the brakes to some extent on the potent Neptune fast break on the counter.

What had been a seemingly insurmountable 27-point gap at half-time was whittled down to just five when Maigh Cuilinn’s Aitor Perez, with four minutes remaining, connected on a three pointer. 5, 4, 3….Maigh Cuilinn were clearly hoping for the sequence to continue down to 2,1,0.

Neptune have class in their side, however, and the underrated Nil Sabata was the man who found a steadying two-pointer on a deft assist from Irish international guard Roy Downey. Maigh Cuilinn answered with a two from Ivan Basic to once again close the gap to five, but that was as close as Maigh Cuilinn would get again. Shortly after, a Downey three-pointer was to prove the real dagger.

For Maigh Cuilinn, Grant Olsson was in sparkling form, having had an uncharacteristically quiet game against Killorglin the week before. He hit 29 points and pulled down 10 rebounds. There were good outings also from Josiah Laracey and Antonio Molina. with Kevin Nugent showing his continued improvement.


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