THE rivalry between UCC Demons and Neptune is going for over 50 years so on Saturday night at 7pm Neptune Stadium is bound to be buzzing when the clubs clash in the opening game of the Men’s SuperLeague season.
Over the years this rivalry has certainly captured the imagination of the Cork basketball and sporting public. For a while when both clubs were at their peak and the sport was hugely attractive, Demons-Neptune had a hint of Celtic-Rangers about it.
There is little doubt the rivalry has simmered a little in recent years but the bragging rights in this particular clash will be crucial to both sides.
Neptune, after a three-year break from the top flight, have signed the former UCC Demons' star Lehmon Colbert. The towering American spent four years with the Sunday's Well club and he will be determined to show his former team that he still has what it takes to play at this level.
It was noticeable last season Colbert struggled in the third and fourth quarter of games but with Demons struggling for numbers at training, maybe the sessions weren’t as aggressive as they were during his earlier years at the club?
The one thing Colbert will bring to the Neptune table is experience and attitude which will be needed particularly with so many young guns in the squad. Neptune also signed victory scholar Justice Melton and the 6’ 6" post will be good back-up for Colbert.
This season will see the welcome return of Cian Heaphy following his cruciate injury that has delayed his ambition to play in the States, like so many of Neptune's promising underage players have lately. Heaphy is a wonderful talent but he will need to take baby steps as playing in the SuperLeague is completely different to what he has been used to during his fledgeling career.
Gary Walsh is an experienced campaigner and so is the charismatic Ger Noonan, who despite indicating his retirement on a number of occasions, is still full of determination to compete against the best. Roy Downey, who had a stint with Demons himself, is another big-game player.
Demons have been decimated by departures in recent years and their best players last season Adrian O'Sullivan is now with Reading Rockets in England. The circumstances means the coming months will be the toughest that player-coach Colin O’Reilly has ever encountered during his illustrious career.
Demons have recruited Latvian Girts Lazdans and word is he is useful forward. Demons' American is 27-year-old Brandon Watts who is a guard out of UNC Pembroke and again he will need to be a good scorer for them to compete with the majority of sides in the top tier.
Kyle Hosford, rated one of the best players in this league when he's on song, is back in training and his return was a welcome sight for the Demons faithful.
Carleton Cuff is a player that can hold his own but the majority of Demons squad are rookies, including the promising David Lehane, that may need another few seasons to adjust to life in the fast lane.
Derby games are always difficult to predict but home advantage may sway it for Neptune.