Ballincollig are hoping for another cup of joy

Ballincollig are hoping for another cup of joy
Ballincollig Ciaran O'Sullivan and Ronan O'Sullivan raise the trophy. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

HE is rated as one of the best shooters in Irish basketball, and this weekend the Ballincollig ace will be hoping to lead his team back to the President’s Cup final when they play Limerick Celtics at the Neptune Stadium.

Ciaran O’Sullivan is confident his side can return to the big stage, having been in top form throughout this campaign, undefeated until their first loss at home in the league to Kubs last weekend. They've already seen off the Northern Conference top dogs Eanna in the last round and are hot favourites to see off Celtics, on Saturday at 6pm in Neptune. 

Ballincollig's Ciaran O'Sullivan knocks over Kubs'  Sean Daly in last weekend's game. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Ballincollig's Ciaran O'Sullivan knocks over Kubs'  Sean Daly in last weekend's game. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Though a Collig man to the core, O’Sullivan had a highly-successful stint as of the all-conquering UCC Demons team of 2014 that went unbeaten and captured a treble.

However, after the 2016-17 season, he felt he needed a fresh start. He headed back to his boyhood club Ballincollig, with his uncle Kieran as head coach, and teamed up again with his best friend Daniel O'Sullivan, no relation, and his cousin Ronan, who has since emigrated to London and plays with Reading Rockets where Ciarán younger brother Adrian is also stationed.

Ballincollig had a terrific debut run in the national league, securing the cup and just missing out on promotion.

“It was strange really as Neptune were down in Division 1 with Killorglin and although both are now playing in the Super League they are competing well and shows the top teams in this division can compete,” said Ciaran.

Indeed O'Sullivan feels the league should now have three tiers to reflect its expansion.

“In my book there are too many teams playing in the Super League and Division 1, 29, that shows me they should maybe have three divisions.

“There are teams in the Division 1 that are simply out of their depth as when I played with Demons basketball in Limerick was strong with UL but now we have three teams. That's probably diluted the standard though there's no doubt Celtics are going well recently, especially underage,” added O’Sullivan.

Celtics were victors in last weekend's John Coughlan U15 Tournament in the Parochial Hall and in December won the U13 and U14 championships.

This season Ballincollig were undefeated up to last week but after experiencing it previously with UCC Demons the pressure is not at fever pitch for O’Sullivan.

“When we did it at Demons it was probably one of the best teams in Irish basketball with so many class players and in Shane Coughlan and Niall O’Reilly you had two great experienced leaders that didn’t know the meaning of defeat.

C&S UCC Demons joint captains Ciaran O'Sullivan and Kyle Hosford in 2016.Picture: Eddie O'Hare
C&S UCC Demons joint captains Ciaran O'Sullivan and Kyle Hosford in 2016.Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“This year we have the best American in the country in Andre Nation and for somebody like Ian McLoughlin, who got a rough deal with Killorgin. He has something to prove and his performances have been crucial for us.”

The word redemption is definitely associated with this Ballincollig team according to O’Sullivan.

“Outside of Ian McLoughlin you have Stephen O’Sullivan trying prove he is good enough to play at this level after spells with Neptune and Cork Celts, our American Andre Nation openly admits his mistakes when playing in college. They all have a point to prove and it’s helping us.”

Looking ahead to the cup game O’Sullivan has told his teammates there is nothing set in stone when it comes to the cup.

“I have told the lads that one-off games are dangerous as you take UL this season they have won only one game but they almost caught us at home when their coach Matt Hall brought a game plan and it almost worked.

“Going back to my Demons years I remember we had beaten UCD Marian by 30 at home and were trailing by 32 in the second leg and by the miracle of God Shane Coughlan nailed a buzzer beater three-pointer that he shot four feet outside the perimeter.” 

In the words of O’Sullivan Limerick Celtics are capable of mixing it with the best and his team will need to in the mix from tip-off.

“The record of Limerick Celtics shows they have lost seven games but any side that can go to Killarney and win a cup quarter-final are doing something right.”

The one plus for Ballincollig is that rumour is rife that the Limerick Celtics star American Turrell Morris has returned home but they have a replacement due in Ireland.

“Look, it seems to be common knowledge that Turrell Morris has decided to leave and knowing their coach Tony Hehir he will have a good replacement. The Celtics are a tall side and have the experienced trio of John Galvin, Shane O’Connell and Rob Lynch and they will battle to the wire.”

Limerick IT's Daniel Broderick trying to block a shot by Ballincollig's Ciaran O'Sullivan. Picture: Denis Minihane.
Limerick IT's Daniel Broderick trying to block a shot by Ballincollig's Ciaran O'Sullivan. Picture: Denis Minihane.

The memories of winning this championship last season are still fresh in the minds of the Ballincollig faithful and O’Sullivan believes the hunger is there to retain the cup.

“There was a group of us started playing basketball together in 1998 and 20 years later to be celebrating a cup win in Dublin was a dream come true for all concerned.

“We had lost two cup finals at underage and that hurt us as players and that’s the reason there was so much emotion at the National Basketball Arena last season and it would be great to relive that experience again.”

Over the years O’Sullivan has experienced playing with some very good Americans but he has a special affinity for his present teammate Nation.

“Look I have played with some very good Americans but I have to say what Andre achieved this season is remarkable.

“Two years out of the game he knew that this was an opportunity to get back playing and he has taken the chance with open arms.

“Andre has been awesome in many games and the good thing about him it’s all about the team and us winning games, as he finds himself getting man marked in the majority of games, but his skill to dish it to his teammates is crucial for us.”

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