ANOTHER year, another Hula Hoops Cup final for a Neptune underage outfit.
This year it’s just the U20s who will compete for national honours when they face Dublin Lions on Saturday afternoon.
Few will be relishing the opportunity to add to the storied Cork side’s trophy collection more than Cian Heaphy, Neptune’s star guard who has been right at the fore of his club’s return to Super League level this year.
The Heaphy family have been loyal servants of Neptune over the years, his father Ger and brother Adam responsible for a number of plaques that hang high in the rafters of Neptune Stadium.
And with Saturday’s challenge looming, Cian looks set to play an instrumental role in making it another successful year for Neptune at underage level.
In Dublin Lions they face tough opposition, guard Tiernan Howe proving particularly troublesome for Portlaoise Panthers in their semi-final clash.
“We’re really looking forward to the game to be honest,” Heaphy said ahead of the contest.”
One of the big hurdles for Heaphy, ahead of the match, will simply be getting fit to tog out, having suffered a lower back injury in their 100-65 semi-final rout of Templegoue two weeks ago, forcing him to sit out against DCU Saints in the Super League last weekend.
“I didn’t train at all the week before the game so there’s no way I was going to get in against DCU. I just want to do everything right during the week and I should be good to go on Saturday.”
While Neptune have always been a force at underage level, recent years has seen the club experience unprecedented success in cup competition, including a historic treble of U18, U20 and Presidents Cup titles two years ago.
Cian credits his long-time coach Paul Kelleher, who will act as assistant to Kieran Leahy this weekend, as a big reason for his own individual success and that of the club as of late.
“Myself and Paul have a very good relationship,” the young man says. “He’s helped me a lot since he coached me on the U16 national squad, so this weekend we’ll see if we can win again together.”
Despite the integral role Heaphy will play for Neptune, it will be far from a one-man show. Darragh O’Sullivan has been a consistent performer at Super League level and will certainly carry his fair share of scoring responsibilities against Lions.
Scott and James Hannigan will also be key at the guard spots, and on a high after their brilliant efforts for Gaelcholáiste Mhuire AG in this week's senior schools triumph, while David Murray has also benefitted from exposure in the Super League.
While Lions will put it up to Neptune, if Cian can play anywhere close to his full capabilities and the supporting cast do their bit, it’s hard to see the outcome as anything other than another Neptune national title.