PREVIEW: Division One finals tee up two interesting clashes
January 25, 2019
Andre Nation - the name that has swept across Ireland this year with his consistently high level performances. Despite losing some key faces from last year’s cup success, Ballincollig will be heading into the President’s Cup final as favourites thanks in large part to the dominance of Nation and their unbeaten run in the league up until Christmas this year. Indeed, Ballincollig went into last week’s cup semi final off the back of a shock loss in the league (their first) at the hands of KUBS. If there was any doubt about an unsteady ship, Nation put that to rest with an incredible 39-point display in a route of Limerick Celtics. Nation of course has experienced talent by his side and both Ian McLoughlin and Ciaran O’Sullivan have Super League cup medals in their pockets so will be unfazed by the occasion.
Despite the talent level of Ballincollig, this matchup is not a formality and that is in large part to Tolka’s star Alex Dolenko. Dolenko won the Super League cup two years ago alongside current Tolka teammate Justin Goldsborough when they both played for Swords Thunder and he provides a unique challenge to Nation. Dolenko, a former pro in his native Ukraine, is regularly tasked with slowing down the opponent’s leading scorer and it’s a task he’s adept at. At 6’4 and superbly athletic he will certainly ask questions of Andre Nation but whether he can pose enough problems will be the big issue for Tolka.
On the other end controlling the impact of Goldsborough will be a worry for Ballincollig. The Cork men are not the biggest team in the country and their sole loss of the season came at the hands of a dominant interior performance. If Goldsborough can cause issues on the glass and get some easy baskets, the title could head to the north side of Dublin.
Over in the Women’s Division One Cup final, Maree, in their first season of National League have rapidly become the dominant force in the league and sit top of the southern conference unbeaten. Crucial signings by coach Joe Shields mean that the Galway team have experience and talent all over the floor. The backcourt pairing of Dayna Finn and Claire Rockall would be the envy of nearly every Super League team in the country. Rockall of course has been one of the most successful players over the past five years with Glanmire in Cork and on the senior international stage, but she has returned to her home club to try and drive them to success. Finn meanwhile has extensive underage international experience and has always shown to be fearless on the big stage.
Patrick O’Neill will be leaning on a combination of his excellent American talent, Kollyns Scarbrough, and young Irish stars like Enya and Erin Maguire for Elks meanwhile. Trailing by one at half time of their semi final against Portlaoise Panthers, it was a dogged second half performance against the midlanders that saw Elks secure their space in the final. Scarbrough is one of the players of the season so far and she was central to their good work in the semi final with an incredible 26 points and 19 rebounds.
This looks set to be a battle of inside out as Elks try and punish Maree inside while the Maree guards look to create the tempo and high scoring that they’ve had all season. Pace may be the most important factor of the game to control and it will be the team that plays their style who will have the best chance at success.