"We didn’t believe this was possible you know, our first year back in the League,” said an emotional Ej Sligo All-Stars Head Coach, Shane O’Meara last Saturday as his side marched into the final of the Hula Hoops Presidents Cup with an 85-63 point win over Team Kilkenny in Neptune Stadium, Co. Cork.
“Getting to a Cup final wasn’t even one of our goals really this year as it’s our first year back. We just wanted to be as competitive as possible this year and see how we went so to be here is just fantastic.”
Indeed, Irish Under 18 international Oisin O’Reilly, Kaylim Noel and Ronan McGarrity were the key driving forces behind Sligo’s win, with O’Reilly and Noel netting 27 and 26 points each.
However, injury and illness plagued the side ahead of the big day, and O’Meara admitted that he wasn’t too confident coming into the game.
“We really felt like we were up against it coming down as we lost Cian Lally to injury and we didn’t have Aidan O’Shea and Peter Papik so a lot of our rebounding power was down. We knew Team Kilkenny had pedigree, they’ve been here before, but the lads did well and Oisin came out and hit some huge threes there in the second half, he really put himself on the map today. He was really sick last night and can barely talk today but you couldn’t tell out there.”
Indeed, O’Reilly was on form early on and, coupled with a strong display from Noel, pushed Sligo into an early 28-13 point lead.
Matt Van Pelt was key for the Kilkenny side, and hit some fantastic jump shots throughout and a strong display from James Butler on defense made Sligo’s work hard, but they held firm and ran out convincing 86-63 point winners in the end.
Sligo will now go on to play BFG Neptune in the Hula Hoops National Cup final on Saturday, January 29, at 5.30pm in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght. Tickets are available now from www.eventbrite.ie where Ej Sligo All-Stars are in Session 3.
TEAMS AND SCORERS:
EJ Sligo All-Stars: Ronan McGarrity, Tobi Brockmann (10), Oisin O Reilly (27), Kaylim Noel (26), Philip Hamilton. Subs: Julian Jarmolowicz, Mark Chambers, Luke McLoughlin, Lee Sherlock, Conor Byrne, Emmet Keogh.
Team Kilkenny: James Butler (15), Jack Murphy, Matt Van Pelt (26), Paul Leigh, Padraig Morrissey. Subs: Lughaidh O’Neill, Ryan Pepper, Julian O’Keeffe, Aaron Fennell (8).