THE Rebel Wheelers go into their first National Cup final this weekend as hot favourites despite matching up against defending champions Ballybrack Bulls.
The Cork outfit sit atop the Irish Wheelchair Basketball league with a perfect record of 10 wins from as many games.
However, while Ballybrack have been off form thus far in the campaign, sitting eight places below their opponents, they caused a similar upset in last year’s final to defeat Killester with a last-second shot to win by a margin of two points.
“I reckon they fancy themselves as a cup team,” says Paul Ryan, Rebel Wheelers’ experienced guard.
“We’re confident but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves because we know what they’ve been capable of in the past.”
Last year the Rebel Wheelers celebrated 10 years since its formation, and adding a national title to their resumé would certainly act as an ample late birthday present.
“The club is really flying at the moment,” Ryan says.
“I’m playing alongside guys that I coached in the academy years ago, so we’re definitely at a point where we’re coming of age right now.
“We have a lot of young players coming through so we have a good mix of youth and experience.
“More than that, we also have a good mix of guards and forwards, where Ballybrack are very guard heavy and like to play out on the break a lot.”
However this pressing style of play would be right up the Wheelers’ street as it is something they have prided themselves on in the last number of seasons.
“We really try to press other teams from the off,” Ryan continues.
“Whether it’s the first or the fortieth minute we’re going to be right up on you and making you work.”
When the two sides met earlier on in the season Wheelers emerged comfortable victors, but Con Coughlan’s outfit will be aware that anything can happen in a cup final.
Ballybrack come into the contest fresh for blood having been on the wrong side of a close encounter at home to NI Knights, losing out by just two points.
“At the end of the day we’re going to relish the challenge,” Ryan says, optimistically, about the fixture.
“It’s our club’s first final so either way it’s a bit of history.
“We’re playing well enough that we feel we can go all the way this weekend.”
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