IT proved to be a wonderful weekend for Cork and Irish basketball as the Mardyke Arena and the Neptune Stadium hosted the National Cup semi-finals, drawing massive attendances at both venues across three days.
While there were some high-profile defeats for UCC Demons and Neptune, Glanmire continue their quest for five in a row, Ballincollig and Fr Mathew's women's team made their first Hula Hoops cup deciders, while Brunell, Glanmire and Neptune will contest underage finals. Demons' second team qualified for the Intermediate Cup final, having also won it last year.
In total six Cork club and seven teams, as Glanmire are in the senior and U18 showpieces, will feature on the finals weekend at the National Basketball Arena on January 26-28.
Neptune went into the weekend holders of the U18, U20 and President’s Cups but lost two of them with only the U18 team qualifying, even if mitigating factors played a significant part in those losses.
The emphatic defeat by UCC Demons in the Senior Men’s Cup at the hands Templeogue was disappointing, and a major talking point from the weekend was what does the future hold for Cork clubs at the highest level of Irish basketball?
In the case of Demons, the club has slid down the rankings over the past two years, and now questions are being raised about the future of the club competing at SuperLeague level. Make no mistake it if Demons were to withdraw from the league it would have a huge impact on the sport.
So what has gone wrong with Demons? Since last season they lost cousins Ciarán and Ronan O’Sullivan to Ballincollig and with Roy Downey returning to Neptune as well they no longer have a deep squad. On top of that trio, Niall Murphy retired following a series of injuries. That left a void they simply couldn't fill.
Player-coach Colin O'Reilly enjoyed huge success in his previous stints at the club, but now they need to quality for the top four in the league and the Champions Trophy semi-finals for a shot at silverware.
Beyond that, what do Demons need to compete in the Super League next season?
Well, first they need to look at the players within their current underage and back-up teams. If they meet the criteria to make the step up, even as squad players they should be encouraged to do so.
The second option would be to recruit but Demons have been slow to do this over the years and this has hurt the senior team.
Despite what people are forecasting for Demons, everything will be done possible to keep the show on the road as this club has been competing at the highest level of basketball for over 50 years.
There was major talk that Neptune would be taking the step back to the Super League next season but after their loss to Killorglin, there are doubts whether they are ready to compete at the top level.
To be fair, Killorglin have two Americans and two Bosmans on their books and that’s hard for a club like Neptune to compete against. The Kerry side are 13-0 in the First Division and will be hot favourites against Ballincollig in the President's Cup final. Neptune pushed them hard and there was no disgrace in losing their crown last Friday night.
What was more worrying was their 49-point defeat to Moycullen in the U20 Men’s semi-final a result that sent shockwaves through the basketball fraternity.
Just like Demons, Neptune have lost some talented ballers.
Sean Jenkins and Adam Drummond are now playing in the States and Cian Heaphy is out with an injury. That's three starters. No club could afford to lose that calibre of player.
On top of that, the sudden death of Liam Chandler in November was heart-breaking for all associated with the club.
The difficulty for the Cork superpowers is how to compete with their Dublin counterparts in attracting European players to their clubs. Dublin is now very much a cosmopolitan city and when you look at many teams in the Super League they now have a glut of European players in their squads.
There is a meeting of clubs shortly to discuss how to get teams playing off a level playing field and the result of that debate will be interesting. How about starting with teams to have three Irish players on the court at any given time?
Cork was once known as the hotbed of Irish basketball in the men's Super League but sadly that title is slowly slipping away from us. One thing the Dubs will never take from us though is our willingness to support basketball teams, no matter who is playing on Leeside.