Skill and will carries Ballincollig in a stone-cold classic against LYIT

Skill and will carries Ballincollig in a stone-cold classic against LYIT
Inigo Zabalo in action for Tradehouse Central Ballincollig. Picture: Larry Cummins.

IN a top-of-the-table clash in any sport, the result is all that matters.

That Tradehouse Central Ballincollig won a stone-cold classic made it all the 87-83 victory all the sweeter on Saturday afternoon in a packed BCS.

With their sights firmly set on promotion to basketball’s Super League after going agonisingly close in their last two campaigns, Collig needed to hold off LYIT on home turf at the weekend. How they achieved it was irrelevant, but this was a game their team and supporters will remember for some time.

In the end, they prevailed after a pulsating battle where the visitors set the tone early and for long spells looked likely and deserving winners, helped by some sensational long-range shooting. Ballincollig held firm, led by Ronan O’Sullivan’s heft and finishing in the paint and the playmaking of Inigo Zabalo.

Ian McLoughlin in action. Picture: Larry Cummins
Ian McLoughlin in action. Picture: Larry Cummins

Ciarán O’Sullivan came up with some killer threes at crucial moments, Ian McLoughlin offered his usual energy, Dylan Corkery his trademark tenacity, and American Andre Nation — hampered by an ankle injury that ruled him out in recent weeks — was a defensive colossus coming down the stretch.

It took a sensational comeback from a daunting 19-point gap to deny the Donegal outfit. A corner three from Zabalo put them ahead for the first time in the last minute, and Ballincollig were able to force turnovers and earn free-throws to kill off LYIT.

Even in the fourth quarter when Ballincollig were reeling them in, that didn’t look likely, given the excellence of the visitors’ marquee players, Manny Payton with his Allen Iverson-esque crossovers, and the towering Dom Uhl, the American with German roots who was brilliant early on. Charlie McKinney shot the lights out from distance.

Cup champions in the hunt for three in a row and unbeaten coming in, the Village were favourites. Yet the Letterkenny outfit had only been beaten once.

And with the mercurial Payton ripping it up, and their shooters nailing a succession of really tough shots, they were value for a 50-35 half-time advantage. Coach Kieran O’Sullivan has genuine depth in his squad, but even has he mixed up his rotations, Collig were leaning heavily on his son Ronan and Zabalo for points.

Ronan O'Sullivan scores a basket. Picture: Larry Cummins
Ronan O'Sullivan scores a basket. Picture: Larry Cummins

You don’t win back-to-back cups without a serious bit of bottle, and they held their nerve. A testament to their defensive excellence in the fourth quarter was that, after giving four fouls away early in that period, they didn’t give away any more in a sport where five fouls per quarter automatically give the opposition free throws.

That’s about mental strength as much as athleticism and skill and bodes well for the remainder of the campaign for Tradehouse Central.

More in this section

Sponsored Content