NEPTUNE travel to Dublin on Saturday confident they can win the Hula Hoops Men’s U18 National Cup final against Belfast Star at the National Basketball Arena (1.30pm).
The Blackpool side showed tremendous form in their semi-final win over UCD Marian and coach Keith Daly is hoping for more of the same against their northern opponents.
“I think UCD Marian expected to beat us but they didn’t expect the intensity and determination we produced on the day and I was very proud of the lads in the manner they performed in such a vital game,” said Keith Daly.
The basketball produced by Neptune was probably the most impressive produced by any side in the semi final weekend and coach Daly believes nothing short of that standard will suffice against Star. “I think anybody that saw Belfast Star Star win their semi-final against Dundalk Ravens will know they are a resilient side that trailed by 19 points in the third quarter and still managed to get back to win,” added Daly.
Coach Daly had his team in tip top shape and well drilled for their win over UCD Marian but believes his players deserve the plaudits for the dedication shown all season.
“I am not one of those coaches that want to be center of attention as without having players that buy into your system you are wasting your time and credit to the lads they have been superb since I took over the reins,” added Daly.
Looking back on the UCD Marian game the Neptune trio of Eli Lenihan, Kelvin O’Donoghue and Sean McCarthy were simply awesome.
Lenihan is a tremendous prospect and the Neptune Super League player coach Lehmon Colbert brought him into his squad and has made it publicly known that he rates the youngster highly.
Lenihan can shoot and also drive to the hoop and his athleticism will be crucial in this final.
Kelvin O’Donoghue is another decent prospect and his ability to shoot and defend makes a crucial part of this Neptune side.
Sean McCarthy started his basketball career at Ballincollig but is now an integral part of this Neptune side.
McCarthy wears his heart on his sleeve and showed no nerves in the semi-final but Tallaght is a different stage again for young players and this is where he needs to showcase his talent.
The unsung hero of this Neptune side is Eoghan Sheehan who battles like a trojan on the boards and his contribution could go a long way to helping Neptune win the title.
The mood in the Belfast Star camp is positive but assistant coach Adrian Fulton knows his side need to improve on their semi- final win.
“In reality I thought we were poor for long periods in our win over Dundalk and we must improve big time to have any chance of toppling Neptune,” said Adrian Fulton.
The Star coach believes his side are inexperienced with the exception of CJ Fulton (son of assistant coach) but sometimes finals in this grade can go against the grain.
“Neptune are a good scoring team and have many weapons in their squad and we will have to find a way to stop them to have any chance of winning,” added Fulton.
There is little doubt the incredible skills of C J Fulton saw him register 15 three pointers for St Malachy’s Belfast in a schools final on this court and Neptune will need to find a way to restrict his influence or risk being punished.
Fulton passes and shoots the ball exceptionally well and it will be interesting how the Neptune coaching staff plan to keep his numbers down.
When Star looked in trouble against Dundalk another player that came to the fore was Ryan Kingi who is an outstanding player at the post and no doubt Neptune’s Eoghan Sheehan could be asked to nullify his threat.
On present form Neptune will go into the game as favourites but Star are always well coached and never panic when trailing in games.
On the other side of the coin Neptune are a high scoring team but in games of this magnitude discipline must be the number one priority and if the Cork side tick the right boxes they will be crowned champions.