THE IWA National Cup final is my favourite game at every National Cup finals basketball weekend.
Regardless of who is playing in it, or who is winning or losing in every other final that weekend, nothing beats the enjoyment from this game. With no final last year due to Covid, I was particularly excited to watch the two best teams in the league collide, Rebel Wheelers from Cork and old rivals Killester from Dublin.
And once again I was not disappointed with what both teams offered up over the 40 minutes of action.
This is sport at its best. Played with no other motive other than doing your best for your team.
There is no playacting, no cheating, no dark arts, just 10 players going at it with everything they have to win a game.
The collisions are huge and often, but these players are made of unique character and spirit. It's played at an incredible pace with no quarter asked or given.
The level of skill on display is incredible, the drive to win glorious, and the emotions shown by the players are reflected only by the noise and gestures made by the fans in the stands.
Huge support from the travelling Rebels! pic.twitter.com/JDCgF1Geb3— Rebel Wheelers Multi-Sport Club (@RebelWheelers) January 22, 2022
And when it is over, there is nothing but handshakes and smiles all around.
Regardless of the result, both teams congratulate each other and it lifts the soul.
With so much of adult sport dominated by tactics, drills and structured play and cranky players who will do anything to win, on and off the ball, to see sport played as it should be, by two evenly-matched teams just playing the game is a delight to see.
It re-energises the soul and reminds you why you fell in love with sport in the first place.
Rebel Wheelers led 28-22 at the half thanks in the main to the scoring of Derek Hegarty with 11 points but the performances of captain Jack Quinn who controlled the tempo of the game from the point, Conor Coughlan, a tremendous competitor, and Jack Mangan, superb on defence and under the boards, also deserve great praise.
That lead had gone out to eight points, 43-35 at the end of the third quarter with the Wheelers looking very much in control and playing very well.
But Killester were very dangerous on the break and were refusing to go away.
With Seamus Holland leading the way for them they were still very much in this final with six minutes to play trailing 46-40 but were coming more and more into the final.
But three quick baskets from the inspirational Coughlan with two and Quinn the other gave Rebels back the initiative as they led 52-40 with five to play.
They led by eight, 54-46 with two to play and were able to see out the final 120 seconds to defend their IWA national cup title in style for the third year in a row.