Kilkenny sink Neptune and sail into semi-finals

Team Left Bank 68pts

Team Left Bank 68pts

Neptune 50pts

TEAM LEFT Bank Kilkenny recorded another milestone when they booked their place in the semi-finals of the National Cup.

The locals marked an impressive first year at this level of competition with a convincing 18-point win over Neptune in Cork on Saturday. The team has been impressive on the road this season, with four wins out of six games away from home, and continued that streak with their most complete performance of the season campaign.

With a place in the final four at stake, the players responded to the challenge. The trio of Dean Kavanagh, Julian O’Keeffe and Enda Roberts kept their opposite numbers very quiet in an energetic first quarter while Philly Brennan and James Butler were dominant on their own boards.

Offensively it was a bit of a slow start, with players taking their time to find their range. While the baskets were not falling at this stage the players were finding open shots with some excellent ball movement and patience on the ball. James Butler finished strongly, hitting four unanswered points to give Team Left Bank a four point (14-10) lead going in at the break.

The Kilkenny side found their groove in the second quarter, with Dean Kavanagh marshalling the players with authority from the point guard position. Julian O’Keeffe hit a hot streak, notching up eight points which included a pair of big three-pointers. Joe Malone, who made his debut on the night, was introduced in this quarter also and completely dominated the defensive boards and put pressure on the Neptune defence under their own boards using his size to full advantage.

Defensively Team Left Bank really put the squeeze on their Cork opponents, holding them to just eight points in the quarter. Enda Roberts was given the task of marking Neptune’s playmaker and top scorer, Kevin Reddy. Roberts did an outstanding job in the half, holding Reddy to two points - the only score he got all game.

The frustration became evident in the Neptune players, but a personal foul by Gary Quinlan on Dean Kavanagh was punished when Kavanagh coolly slotted the resulting free throws. At the end of the half, Team Left Bank had built up a comfortable 16 point lead (34-18).

Having already played Neptune in the league - and seeing a big lead get whittled down to a narrow winning margin - Team Left Bank knew they couldn’t take their foot off the gas in the third quarter. The players upped their intensity even more on the restart, holding Neptune to just nine points.

Offensively again the first three to four minutes were a bit shaky as Neptune applied a full court press, trying to find a way back into this game. This was quickly broken down, with Philly Brennan, Julian O’Keeffe and Enda Roberts picking up some easy lay-ups as a result.

The fourth quarter saw a spirited effort from Neptune as the Team Left Bank players tired after their efforts in the previous quarters. This was the only quarter that Neptune won in terms of points scored, but the writing was on the wall at this stage.

The frustration and disappointment of the Corkmen came to the fore when their coach was ejected from the game for persistent arguing with the referees. A double technical foul was called and Tommy O’Mahoney duly netted the resulting four free throws to start the celebrations among the visitors.

While Kilkenny will play Dublin Thunder in the semi-finals, a side who boast a number of top class American players and former professionals on Saturday, January 14, they will be back in league action this weekend.

Next up is the visit of St Brendan’s (Tralee) to the O’Loughlin Gaels hall this Saturday at 7pm. A big crowd is expected to support the team as they push to keep pace with Castleisland who are just ahead of them in the league standings.

Team Left Bank Kilkenny: Julian O’Keeffe (24), James Butler (22), Philip Brennan (8), Dean Kavanagh (6), Tommy O’Mahoney (6), Enda Roberts (2), Joe Malone, Damien Brett, Brian Hogan, Lughaidh O’Neill.