BALLINCOLLIG Basketball Club joined the bluebloods of the Irish game after an outstanding display on the biggest stage in Tallaght.
Emporium Cork Basketball: Super League champions and full value for it. Entering the playoffs as underdogs, they did it the hard way, taking down the top three in Eanna, UCC Demons and Maree.
Their soft-spoken American guard John Dawson was a silent assassin in the National Basketball Arena, going from a scoreless first quarter to 31-point MVP. Spanish duo Pau Cami Galera and Jose Jimenez Gonzales offered their usual blend of raw passion and silky skill.
Ronan O'Sullivan and Keelan Cairns' physicality was crucial, player-coach Ciarán O'Sullivan swished two soaring three-pointers and his brother Adrian played a captain's role, driving to the rim and running the offense. Dylan Corkery is a defensive enforcer but he'd 11 points as well, including clever lay-ups with the bonus either side of the fourth-quarter restart.
Assistant coach Daniel O'Sullivan was vocal but composed on the sideline, Kevin Mulcahy's S&C had the players fit and firing coming down the stretch while the Village faithful created a raucous atmosphere which they fed off.
Their inspirational climb to the mountain top was through a strong underage base which provided four of the eight players used, successful recruitment, good coaching and steely self-belief.
After the bitter disappointment of last season when they captured the Southern Conference, losing just once, but were outsmarted at home to rivals Neptune in the semis, Collig saved the best until last here. They came up short against Maree twice in the regular season but learned and adapted. Marquee men Rodrigo Gomez, Jarett Haines and Zvonimir Cutuk were held by 41 points between them and Emporium did far better on rebounds, crashing the offensive boards to great effect.
Emporium lost the cup semi this term when they'd one foot in the final and then suffered cruel defeats to Tralee (on the buzzer), Belfast Star in overtime and Eanna. Their season hung by a thread In Killester last month but they survived and entered the playoffs as the lowest Southern Conference seeds.
They edged out Eanna on the road after double overtime and got the better of UCC Demons in a pulsating Cork derby.
That put them on collision course with a Maree outfit chasing a double who'd an excellent 16-3 record in the regular season. The Galway side missed the playmaking of veteran Eoin Rockall, brother-in-law of Ciarán O'Sullivan incidentally, but Emporium's hunger was evident from the opening exchanges when Jimenz put them 5-0 up. Even if that enthusiasm led to foul trouble, Ballincollig's aggression was controlled for the most part and denied Maree any sort of rhythm.
They never managed to string together more than two scores in a row until midway through the fourth quarter when down 72-53.
It was too late by then. The Super League trophy was heading to the Village for the first time.
Nothing beats competing and winning with your ‘friends’ .What a journey ye have taken us on .— Ballincollig Basket (@BallincolligB) April 1, 2023
Congrats @Colligsulli14 and @ciaransully .@BballIrl pic.twitter.com/iP78i5BDCG