Analysis: Neptune couldn't cope with the big stage and Tralee's depth

A worst display of the season left C&S Neptune with major regrets after being outgunned by the Warriors
Analysis: Neptune couldn't cope with the big stage and Tralee's depth

C&S Neptune’s Cian Heaphy up against Kieran Donaghy of Garvey's Tralee Warriors. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

C&S NEPTUNE, it is fair to say, picked the biggest night of them all to have their worst performance of the season.

And they can have no complaints in an 88-74 loss to Tralee Warriors in the Pat Duffy National Cup final; they were very poor from start to finish.

And when the post-mortems begin as to why they were so bad, so lethargic, maybe the first place they need to look is at their preparation.

Neptune travelled to Dublin on Friday night, the players went straight to their rooms, then the players spent all day Saturday waiting in a hotel with nothing to do but try to pass the time without exerting themselves.

No training session, no team meeting, just hanging around bored all day waiting for a game at 6pm. 

It’s worth a discussion.

At the end of a terrible first quarter, C&S Neptune only trailed by five points. They were lucky to be only that far behind. It wasn’t thanks to any great defence, rather that Tralee were only slightly better than Neptune in terms of points production.

It was a quarter best forgotten about quickly, full of turnovers, bad passes and stupid shot selection. One of the worst opening 10 minutes of basketball I have ever seen.

It was hard to believe that two such experienced good teams could look so nervous and out of their depth but the bright lights of finals night in the arena blinded them both.

Neptune shot 26% from the floor (5/19), while Tralee managed 29% with Kieran Donaghy making a huge difference upon his introduction with six points.

The only highlight for Neptune in this quarter was a superb dunk by Cian Heaphy and yet when the game could have been gone from them, they were only down 12-17.

Neptune’s terrible play continued in the second quarter though. They were still taking crazy shots, making bad decisions and not working hard enough on defence and by the fifth minute of the second quarter, they trailed 17-29 and were in real trouble.

Despite playing the majority of the half Colin O’Reilly was contributing nothing to the offence and the only player who was, Nil Sabata, was ignored most of the time when he was looking for the ball. 

C&S Neptune's Nils Sabata scores. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
C&S Neptune's Nils Sabata scores. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

Tralee continued to get better as the half went on and with four to go to the break they led 32-20 and were in complete control of the game.

With just under three minutes to go Tralee led 34-23 forcing Neptune into another time-out which was needed badly as they looked lost on both ends of the floor and were in need of inspiration.

It never came and Tralee finished the half the stronger adding to their total to lead at the half 28-43. Fifteen points down, Neptune had shot just 26% from the floor (10/38) and turned the ball over seven times. They were outrebounded by 33-17 by Tralee and only Heaphy and Sabata were showing any sort of form.

IN BIG TROUBLE

Player-coach Colin O’Reilly had 10 minutes to save this final. Could he turn it around with his team talk? Could Neptune find a hero and their true form?

O’Reilly changed his starting five for the second half going with Alex Tarradellas and Miles Washington instead of Gittens and himself but it made little difference as Tralee still led by 12, 38-50 with six minutes to play. 

Then O’Reilly checked back into the game. Suddenly Neptune woke up. 

C&S Neptune's Miles Washington in action. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
C&S Neptune's Miles Washington in action. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

They increased their defensive intensity and driven on by Downey, Heaphy and Tarradellas, they started to score easy baskets. When Washington brought the house down with a monster dunk with just under five to play, suddenly there was only eight between the sides and the momentum had shifted.

But Tralee, thanks to an excellent time-out, calmed the storm and with the next three baskets going to them they were able to push the lead back to 14, 42-56 with three remaining in the third.

And that was still the lead with 10 minutes to play, 50-64. It was now Tralee’s final to lose. That was never on the cards for the Kerry men.

They eased their way through the final quarter and won in style to capture their first Pat Duffy National Cup title.

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