National League basketball is back! After a long summer away from the court teams got a chance to lay down a marker for the year ahead on Saturday night.
There are four teams entering the second tier of Irish basketball who played elsewhere last season. Donegal Town, Cork’s Fr. Matthews, Ulster Elks and youngsters Templeogue are the welcomed parties and were all in action on Saturday night.
Our feature game this weekend focuses on two of the newcomers. The Oblate Hall in Inchicore hosted a contest between Templeogue and Ulster Elks.
Despite the club being founded in 1976 Saturday was the first ever National League game in Templeogues history. The club has had massive success at underage level in recent years, winning the u18 All-Ireland Cup two years in a row. Indeed this team has seven players under the age of 20. Talking with team manager Eamonn Fagan before the game he emphasized the importance of continually challenging these young players. He has high hopes for this team and expects them to learn and grow from the step up this year.
Ulster Elks on the other hand have a far more experienced side. Elks ended their stint in the Nivea For Men’s SuperLeague at the end of the 2010-11 season. They will be one of the teams to beat this season.
This Ulster experience was evident early in the game as they shot out to a quick lead. The sense of occasion seemed to get to the young Dubliners and they struggled to score against the more physically imposing Northerners. The Elks were able to force turnovers and run their fast break offense, giving them a 27-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter played out in much the same manner. Ulster’s ball movement stretched Templeogues zone defence, allowing them to find open shooters. Marty McDonald punished the Dublin side at every opportunity, connecting on four 3-point shots; helping Elks to a 47-22 half-time lead.
However Templeogue woke up in the third quarter. Active ball pressure from Baolach Morrisson and Irvin Gamede forced Ulster into mistakes and turnovers. Meanwhile the strong midrange game of Paddy McGaharan kept the scoreboard ticking over for Elks. The pace of the game picked up near the end of the third quarter, which began to suit the game of the younger team.
Templeogue used their speed and active hands to do what Elks did to them in the first quarter; forcing turnovers and turning them into lay-ups at the other end of the floor. A series of quick scores from Tomas Swiatowy followed by a lay-up from Morrisson cut what was a 28 point lead to just 11 with 2:46 left on the clock. With a rabid crowd now behind them the young Dubliners may have pushed on. But experience told and despite losing the final quarter 20-10 the Elks closed out the win.
The final score in Inchicore was 78-64 and both teams can take a lot from the game. Ulster exhibited terrific ball movement and strong defence close to the basket. Templeogue will take heart from their second half performance. They showed that their running game can be as strong as any other team in this league and that they won’t be pushed around as the new kids on the block.
Check back soon for video highlights from the first weekend of National League action!
Saturday Night Results:
Templeogue 64 (Taylor 16, Homan 9, Swiatowy 9)
Ulster Elks 78 (McGaharan 22, McDonald 22, Johnson 18)
Donegal Town 58 (Muldoon 13, Muldoon 13, Timoney 13)
Dublin Thunder 103 (Goj 35, Jankech 16, McGovern 15)
Fr Matthews 45 (O’Callaghan 11, Brusecus 11, Vucen 8)
Maree 62 (Hansberry 18, Brophy 10, O’Hagan 10)
Left Bank Kilkenny 50 (Walsh 12, Brennan 12, O’Keefe)
Blue Demons 63 (McCarty 21, Hosford 14, O’Halloran 11)
Team Garveys St Marys 79 (Fitzgerald 20, Wall 17, Griffin 10)
MOF Chemist Titans 61 (Fabriciuss 15, Peldzius 15, Sedebskis 9)