On what should have been a great night for Kilkenny basketball in O’Loughlin Gaels in front of the biggest crowd of the season by far, Team Left Bank put in a below par performance that was not good enough to trouble the experienced Blue Demons, Cork.
A win against ’Demons would have copper-fastened a second place finish in the Southern Conference and guaranteed a home draw in the quarter-finals of the play-offs. The team must now win their last two games and then play a waiting game for results elsewhere, a situation which clearly would have been best avoided.
The stage was set for a classic. The spectator gallery was full and the crowd were hoping for a repeat of the level of performance seen against Castleisland two weeks ago. It was not to be. From the start the home team looked flat and had a number of missed shots, handing the initiative to ’Demons, who went to work inside early on.
T. O’Halloran caused lots of problems under the Kilkenny basket along with S. McCarthy. Julian O’Keeffe and Dean Kavanagh finally got the scoreboard going for Team Left Bank late on in the quarter to reduce the deficit to four points at the break.
The home team were finding it hard to cope with the experienced play from Blue Demons and they had to adjust their defence.
The second quarter was tighter and scores were hard to come by. James Butler got going after a slow start and Enda Roberts and Philip Brennan finished big in the half to keep in touch with Blue Demons, who had threatened to pull away.
Butler found it hard to deal with the physicality and cleverness of the Demon’s forwards and picked up his fourth foul in the quarter, meaning he would have to sit out the third in an effort to keep him in the game for the run in. Half time could not come quick enough for the locals.
At half-time there was a half way line shot competition for a prize of €100 and players from the under-age teams from Cork, Waterford and Kilkenny competed. There were a few close shaves, but nobody could find the accuracy to take the cash.
The half-time talk was simple. Team Left Bank had not played anywhere near their potential. If they did they would have won. The third quarter did not yield any better results as Demons continued to play clever, efficient basketball.
Most importantly, they dictated the pace and stopped Team Left Bank from running their high tempo offence which has proved so successful to date. The lead had stretched further at the end of this quarter to 11 points.
The fourth quarter started positively and finally the tempo was lifted by the home team, who picked up a couple of steals, courtesy of Julian O’Keeffe and Enda Roberts, whose defence throughout was superb. Despite the injustice of being six down, Team Left Bank had the momentum and the huge crowd behind them willing them on but they were hit by a sucker punch when C. O’Flaherty hit a fortunate three pointer off the backboard.
Team Left Bank bounced back with a three point play from Julian O’Keeffe to reduce the deficit to six points to get within touching distance with three minutes to play. Another sickening three pointer, this time from Demon’s J. Carmody, deflated the home team who did not recover.
The closing two minutes of action were very scrappy and the final losing margin was 11 points. It is not clear whether the poor performance was down to nerves or complacency, because Kilkenny had beaten Demon’s in Cork.
The club extended a big thank you to everyone who supported the team. They hope that you will return again next Saturday for what could possibly be the last home game of the season.
Next game: Team Left Bank Kilkenny v Neptune.
Venue: O’Loughlin Gaels GAA club.
Date/time: Saturday (7pm).
Scorers - Julian O’Keeffe (17), Dean Kavanagh (10), Enda Roberts (8), James Butler (6), Padraig Morrissey (4), Philip Brennan (2), Tommy O’Mahoney (1), Andy Piper, Brian Hogan, Lughaidh O’Neill, David Clerkin, Noel O’Hara.