THERE will be a Super League basketball team on Leeside next season after Neptune were granted a reprieve from relegation.
The Leeside powerhouse were set to drop into Division 1 for the 2019-'20 season but the Men’s National Competitions Committee at Basketball Ireland have selected them to replace Blue Demons in the top tier.
Fellow Cork outfit Ballincollig were also pushing for a berth in Super League after coming close to promotion over the past two campaigns, while also landing successive President's Cup crowns. However, Neptune's greater experience and better facilities ensure they will compete against the best again.
Their traditional rivals opted out of the National League completely due to a lack of players, while their player-coach Colin O'Reilly has switched to Killorglin. Demons had already lost Roy Downey, Ciarán and Adrian O'Sullivan and Shane Coughlan from the group that was all-conquering in the middle of the decade.
Neptune had significant underage success in recent years, though talented young guns like Darragh O'Sullivan and Cian Heaphy are geared to switch to play basketball Stateside.
While they were motoring well under coach Paul Kelleher midway through last season, including a thrilling derby victory over Demons in the Christmas period, they went into a slump which saw them relegated after a play-off against Dublin Lions.
They've already lined up former Demons guard and Irish international national Kyle Hosford to wear the Neptune singlet for next season but keeping Roy Downey injury free will be critical to making a mark in the Super League. A Downey-Hosford would offer a blend of skill and experience with a tough edge.
The pair have already teamed up on the Gaelic football pitch, winning Seandún silverware with the Delanys club.
Veteran Lehmon Colbert produced some fine displays in the last campaign, though the best clubs at the elite level now utilise two Americans in rotation, as well as Eastern European imports.
Neptune's rapid promotion means Ballincollig, who in recent weeks welcomed Ronan O'Sullivan back to the club after a stint with Reading Rockets, will again be one of the favourites to emerge from Division 1. His strength and aggression will immediately improve their squad.
Basketball Ireland will have to rejig the conferences in that tier after Neptune's elevation.