File photo of Liffey Celtics in action against Portlaoise Panthers last year Pic: Denis Byrne
This coming weekend marks the start of the Basketball Ireland Women’s Super League and Women’s Division One, with games tipping off across the country.
Reigning league champions, Courtyard Liffey Celtics will welcome Maxol WIT Wildcats to the Amenities Centre in Leixlip, while Cup champions DCU Mercy will host IT Carlow Basketball at the University on Sunday afternoon.
Portlaoise Panters, who have a strong Kildare contingent playing with the club, get ready to face St Mary’s Castleisland at St Mary’s Sports Hall at 7:30pm on Saturday in the Basketball Ireland Women’s Division One.
Over in the Basketball Ireland Men’s Division One Portlaoise Panthers are in action against WIT Vikings at Waterford IT at 7pm.
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Newly promoted Fr Mathews will be ready for their first game in the top flight, as they mark the opening of the new Fr Mathews Arena with a clash against Galway’s NUIG Mystics. They are looking forward to getting their Super League season underway, with a strengthened squad that includes former Glanmire star, Grainne Dwyer (who now rejoins sister Niamh on the court), Chantell Alford and Shannon Brady.
“This is a new experience for the club and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” said head coach, James Fleming. “Hopefully with the squad we have assembled, we will be competitive. NUIG will be tough, but we’ve prepared well and hopefully we’ll give our supporters a performance.
Up the road, Mark Scannell has taken back up his role at the helm of Ambassador UCC Glanmire and is preparing for a Sunday afternoon clash against newly promoted Marble City Hawks in Cork.
“I’m looking forward to game one of the season, we’ve a very young team and it will be a great experience for them,” he said. “Kilkenny did well last year and have good Americans so we’ll need to be focused. There’s a good spirit in the squad so hopefully that will get us a good start and our Americans are settling in well so we’ll see where it takes us.”
In Dublin meanwhile, Pyrobel Killester will host Singleton SuperValu Brunell at the IWA in Clontarf as part of a double header with their men’s team. Looking ahead to the clash, head coach, Karl Kilbride stated: “We’re really excited for Saturday. It’s been a long and really productive pre-season, we can’t wait to play a proper, meaningful game.
"Brunell are a bit of an unknown, with a new coach and we haven't seen them play yet. Being the first game of the season, I’d imagine it’ll be a bit sloppy and it could come down to whoever makes the fewest mistakes defensively. It’s a really difficult game, but one we’re very much looking forward to.”
Over in the Men’s Super League meanwhile, Garvey’s Tralee Warriors are hoping that they can bounce back strong after a three-point loss to neighbours Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin in the opening game of the season last weekend. They will travel to Cork on Friday evening to face UCC Demons, who are coming into the game off the back of a 12-point win over C and S Neptune last weekend.
Looking ahead to the challenge, Warriors’ head coach, Pat Price stated: “We’re looking for a stronger performance on both ends of the floor this Friday night. At this point of the season, it’s all about improvement. Demons have a strong, balanced starting five and we’ll need to value every possession.”
In the IWA in Clontarf meanwhile a repeat of last year’s Super League play-off final is in store as Pyrobel Killester host reigning league champions UCD Marian.
“It's going to be tough obviously,” stated Killester’s Brian O’Malley. “They're a really good team, well coached and a proven outfit. I don't think last year’s game has any real impact on this game, they've added a good few faces so it’s a different dynamic. We're just going to concentrate on improving from last week and trying to execute to our strengths as best we can.”
Up in Belfast meanwhile, Belfast Star and Griffith Swords Thunder will each be hoping to get their first win of the season, after losses to Templeogue and Killester respectively last weekend.
Looking ahead to the game, Star head coach, Adrian Fulton stated: “Against Templeogue, we went away from sharing the ball, we over dribbled and weren’t patient enough to wait for good scoring opportunities. Credit to Templeogue, they were excellent, but we have to be better if we are going to win games at this level.
“We were missing players, but our performance is below the standards we have set for ourselves. The lads have reacted well in practice this week and I hope we can bounce back. It doesn’t get any easier though. Swords are another highly talented side and in Isaac Westbrooks, they have a really top class point guard who runs his team extremely well.”
Elsewhere, DCU Saints will host C and S Neptune with both teams looking for their first win of the season, Maree will welcome Templeogue to Oranmore while Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin will host Moycullen in their first Super League home game of the season.