Basketball Ireland Season Gets Underway This Weekend

Kieran Donaghy of Garvey's Tralee Warriors in action against Matt Kelly of UCD Marian during the Basketball Ireland Men's Superleague match between Garvey's Warriors Tralee and UCD Marian in the Tralee Sports Complex in Tralee, Co. Kerry. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

The Basketball Ireland Men’s Super League returns with a bang this weekend with some big battles across the country.
One of the major clashes will be in Kerry on Saturday evening when reigning league champions, Garvey’s Tralee Warriors, open their season with a hugely-anticipated clash against 2018 league champions, UCD Marian. These two sides met in a thrilling end of season showdown back in March, which saw Tralee take two massive wins against the Dubliners to be crowned league champions for the first time.

Both sides boast new look squads, with Tralee boosted by the additions of Daniel Jokubaitis and Ivan Bogdanovic from Killorglin, and have also welcomed American Keith Jumper back into the squad for another year. UCD Marian meanwhile are also a changed squad as they head into the new season without the services of Spaniard JJ Vall Ilobera and star player Conor Meany, who has retired from Super League basketball. They have added talent in the form of Shane Davidson, American Brian Andrews and Igor Markiewicz, the latter moving over from Dublin Lions.

Looking ahead to the clash, Tralee boss, Pat Price stated: “We’re looking forward to Saturday’s game. We’re still finding our way and trying to get in sync with each other. There are lots of new faces and it will take us some time to realize our identity. We know Saturday will be a big task, particularly for an opening game, so we’re hoping to get off to a strong start and take advantage of the home support.”

UCD Marian head coach Ioannis Liapakis added: “Our squad for the season remains almost the same, but we lost two really important players in Conor Meany and JJ. We’ve added some new players and for the next two to three years we’re going to be in a transition phase as we’re going to start losing more of our experienced players to retirement and we will need to bring in our younger players. The first game of the season is always the most difficult one and especially when you have to play the league winners in their gym. We know what we’re going to face over there and we’re looking forward to this huge challenge.”

One of the other big games of the weekend sees Griffith College Templeogue on the road up to Belfast Star in what is set to be another hotly-contested battle.

“I think we have a chance to be good this year but we will have to blend youth and experience,” mused Star head coach, Adrian Fulton. “We have lots of new faces and a few injuries, but we’re looking forward to it.”

Templeogue’s Mark Keenan also looked ahead to the game, adding: “It’s important to get off to a good start and Star in Belfast is a tough place to start. We will be calling on all of our experience to help us get through this weekend. We had some great battles with Star last season and I believe they will improve again this year.”

Other big games around the weekend include the much-anticipated Dublin derby between DCU Saints and Pyrobel Killester on Saturday evening, with the latter boasting the return of Isaac Westbrooks. Coughlan C&S Neptune host Keane’s SuperValu Killorglin in Cork on Saturday evening in a game that will undoubtedly be one to watch, with Kyle Hosford added into the Neptune set-up, while Colin O’Reilly has moved to Killorglin as player/coach.  

Two derbies wrap up the remaining games of the weekend with Moycullen hosting Maree in a big Galway showdown at NUIG while the final match-up is another Dublin derby as the two newly promoted sides, Abbey Seals Dublin Lions and DBS Éanna, go head-to-head in Clondalkin.