Cork basketball: Glanmire power past rivals Brunell into National Cup final 

Veteran Áine McKenna was in exceptional form in the first half for the favourites at Neptune Stadium
Cork basketball: Glanmire power past rivals Brunell into National Cup final 

Aine McKenna, The Address UCC Glanmire, is fouled beneath the basket in the InsuremyHouse.ie National Cup semi-final at Neptune Stadium. Picture: Larry Cummins

The Address UCC Glanmire 92 Singleton's SuperValu Brunell 82 

A STUNNING performance by The Address UCC Glanmire ensured they booked their place in the Paudie O’Connor Women’s National Cup final after defeating rivals Singleton’s Supervalu Brunell at Neptune Stadium.

They had no shortage of top performers in a great team display, but when the game hung in the balance Claire Melia produced consecutive three-pointers that knocked the stuffing out of Brunell.

The likes of Amy Dooley and Mia Furlong made crucial contributions for Mark Scannell's side, while American Carrie Shepard was their top-scorer. Brunell, who were bidding for their third consecutive appearance in the decider, could have few complaints in the end, while the favourites will now focus on collecting their first cup since completing four in a row in 2017.

The underdogs started brighly though. Simone O’Shea only took five seconds to nail the opener, a three-pointer, and when Shannon Ryan followed up with consecutive baskets as the Nellies looked well up for this derby.

Casey Grace did stop the drought with a deft jumper but a second O’Shea three gave Brunell a 12-2 lead before the Glanmire coach Mark Scannell called a time-out after just three minutes.

Glanmire began getting into the game with Aine McKenna nailing a huge shot outside the arc, following up with a free throw.

McKenna continued to drive Glanmire forward and when she made a stunning move to the hoop it reduced the deficit to three with 3.21 remaining in the quarter.

Glanmire took the lead for the first time in the quarter, courtesy of McKenna's free-throws and the Listowel native was in top form.

Shepherd registered her first basket, a magnificent three-pointer, for a 23-22 lead at the end of a thrilling opening quarter.

 Carrie Shepard, The Address UCC Glanmire, eyes the basket against Singleton's SuperValu Brunell. Picture: Larry Cummins
Carrie Shepard, The Address UCC Glanmire, eyes the basket against Singleton's SuperValu Brunell. Picture: Larry Cummins

Mia Furlong and Shepherd nailed long-range three-pointers in the opening 50 seconds of the second quarter forcing Brunell coach Tim O’Halloran into a time-out.

Brunell's defence wasn't coping with the pressure while they lacked structure at the other end of the court, their scoring completely drying up. Glanmire were in total control now, 10 points up in the 12th minute following a Grace jumper.

McKenna and Grace hurt Brunell, but when they needed inspiration Edel Thornton produced a stunning move that yielded a basket and bonus, trimming the deficit to four, 44-40 with 1.22 remaining to the interval.

Miriam Loughrey, the battling Glanmire forward was rewarded in the last minute with two free-throws and a buzzer-beater lay-up that ensured her side went in at the break leading 50-42.

The difference in the first half was the excellence of Glanmire's Irish players, with McKenna (14), Grace (12) and Furlong (6) all contributing handsomely, despite their slow start.

Brunell will be wondering how they allowed their opponents to score 50 points in a half that saw them play well below par, particularly in defence.

 Edel Thornton, Singleton's SuperValu Brunell battles Claire Melia, Glanmire. Picture: Larry Cummins
Edel Thornton, Singleton's SuperValu Brunell battles Claire Melia, Glanmire. Picture: Larry Cummins

American Kwanze Murray, after a disappointing first half, nailed a basket and three-pointer but her foul-count was an issue, and she had to be substituted just three minutes into the quarter after her fourth foul.

Glanmire were put under pressure though, struggling to get into their first-half groove. And when Shannon Ryan nailed one of her two free-throws with 2.34 remaining the sides were level: 58 points each.

Glanmire kept battling and a late Shepherd basket gave them a four-point cushion 64-60 entering the final quarter.

Amy Dooley pushed the lead out to seven, with a basket and the bonus. 

And when Shepherd followed up with a lay-up, Brunell looked in serious trouble.

Coming down the stretch, the class of Melia was always evident as she hit the clutch shots when her team needed inspiration.

In the end, Brunell can have few complaints as the class of the Glanmire Irish players proved the difference with the National Basketball Arena awaiting them for the final on Sunday, January 23.

Top scorers for The Address UCC Glanmire: C Shepherd 22, A McKenna 18, C Melia 13, M Furlong 13.

Singleton's SuperValu Brunell: S Ryan 28, K Murray 23, E Thornton 15, S O’Shea 9.

BRUNELL: M Finnegan, S Ryan, L Homan, A Braham, K Sexton, E Thornton, S O’Shea, A Macheta, K Murray, K Walsh, L Crean-Hickey, S O’Reilly.

GLANMIRE: A McKenna, C Grace, L Scannell, M Furlong, A Dooley, C Shepherd, A M Murphy, E O’Shea, M Loughery, A Furlong.

Referees: J Dooley (Portlaoise), C White (Dublin), J Lavin (Dublin).

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