EMPORIUM Cork Basketball are one win away from featuring in the main event of the men's game in Ireland.
In their second Super League season, the Ballincollig side face Éanna, who knocked out Neptune, in the Pat Duffy National Cup semi-final in January after slipping past Killester last weekend. They savoured some great days at the National Basketball Arena when they were a Division 1 outfit, completing three in a row in the President's Cup, but also know the bitterness of defeat at underage level.
Player-coach Ciarán O'Sullivan has vast cup experience and conceded the weight of expectation meant they struggled to get into their flow at BCS on Saturday before pushing on in the final quarter for a 74-62 win.
"It was a must-win game and they've been in the league final and cup final in the last few years and have been right up there. Killester always have good teams. Last year we were kicking ourselves after the Tralee game away in the first round and we felt we'd an opportunity with Moycullen and Killester at home to get to the semi-final. There was pressure on. Being at home and being favourites.
"I said to the lads before the game that 16 years ago we made the breakthrough, myself and Daniel's U18 team, by getting to the cup semi for the first time. January is huge for basketball. We're 40 minutes away from being on TG4 now in a cup final which would be fantastic for Emporium and for everyone involved in the committee and playing underage for the club."
It was a team effort, six players scoring eight points or more, with American John Dawson delivering when it mattered.
"They went under the pick and rolls and we couldn't get any flow and rhythm, but we stepped up and hit some tough shots down the stretch. John was really good there. Defensively we were delighted to hold them to 62 but we'd been averaging around 90 points so this was a different game."
Dylan Corkery was the standout performer, giving a defensive masterclass.
"Dylan could be in another club and a pro could be ahead of him and getting those minutes. He was probably Man of the Match against Neptune for his defence on Jordan Blount. It's a credit to the club for developing him. He never went abroad but he had three seasons in the First Division and now he's really after finding his best form. He's putting the ball in the basket on top of his defence."
He's the perfect example of home-grown talent, with youngsters Luke O'Sullivan and Colm Blount also getting minutes against Killester. The club have a deal signed with MTU Cork to play in the university's new court when it opens in the New Year.
"We're closing in on the move to MTU and it means we'll be able to draw bigger crowds and keep the momentum going. The club is thriving because you get the coverage of playing at this level so younger players are interested in finding out about basketball and for those involved in underage teams, they can see a pathway to the top within the club."
Ciáran is in a new role this season, stepping up from assistant to head coach, succeeding his uncle Kieran O'Sullivan. Still featuring heavily in the rotation as a player, his form has been excellent in recent weeks. Daniel O'Sullivan's nous as assistant coach is vital he explains.
"The lads are very understanding too, there's good respect there and I think I add value as a player still. The quality of the pros and having Ronan (O'Sullivan) back means we have more threats and more of a spread that's given me more openings than in the last few years."
The team now have a week off before hosting UCC Demons in a Super League derby on December 17.
Exciting times on and off the hardwood, especially after Ciarán and his wife Claire welcomed baby daughter Emma to the world earlier this year.