Recent clashes between SCS and Mount Saint Michael have rarely failed to thrill. The latest scintillating first year county semi final was a testament to both teams and pulsed with energy from tip to final buzzer. It was a game that could be owned or surrendered and control was in our hands. To a point.
Game on. SCS had a mercurial start. Eividas, our wonderful point guard struck first. A majestic three pointer that sailed through the hoop. Ross quickly responded with two beautifully taken baskets of their own. The athletic Conor Twomey was causing utter havoc to our offence until Eividas took control of the situation and brought a measure of calm inventiveness to our play. Passes and cuts had to be crisp and sharp or they were torn from our grasp in a kind of wild fury.
While SCS had the greater possession, easy scoring chances were hard to come by. Under the relentless pressure, an old failing crept back into our game and we returned to missing short shots. This carelessness came back to haunt us and brought the game to a knife-edge. Ross held a narrow advantage at half time. This was no game for tight nerves and some of our players struggled to cope against the ferocious tackles that were dealt out.
Others stood tall. The ultra -gifted at every sport Robbie Minihane was one who took up the challenge. A team player to the core of his being with 'Haven' blood coursing through his veins, Robbie's plea to his team mates of 'Come on lads, we can do it' could be heard throughout the match. He drove our team on, time and time again, dominated the offensive and defensive rebounds, was irrepressible in attack and again our top scorer. A well organised 2 1 2 zone defence is hard to penetrate and Robbie was the player who carved it open.
The game hung deliciously in the balance until near the end of the third quarter when Peadar O'Rourke fired up a hopeful shot. The ball bounced off the backboard and nestled into the ring giving Ross a four point advantage. SCS faces glazed with fear stared in disbelief at the courts, thoughts of the impossible beginning to thicken. Success brings its own pressures!
The decision to switch from a 212 zone to full court 2 2 1 zone press in the final quarter had a powerful effect on this game and Ross were slow to react. If a team is facing a crisis, it is good to have a player like Tomás O'Mahony in their midst. The inspirational Tomás who had defended furiously throughout this game shot upwards scoring his first three pointer for SCS. It was a shot delivered more in hope than in expectation but was the catalyst that ignited our team and Tomás' smile will stay with us forever.
From that score on, SCS dominated the action. The ever reliable superstar James O'Neill cut from the base and sent us back into the lead. James has been outstanding in all our matches and his play goes from strength to strength. Ross continued to be rattled by the full court press and their coach called a timeout. Whatever plan Ross came up with, it had no influence in this game. Cool heads eased us back into the lead and with the clock ticking, we went into a five point lead. The valuable experience of grinding out a victory that we had gained on route to the All Ireland semi final stood to us here as Eividas in particular took control and we used down the remaining seconds.
The games are getting tougher. New heroes are emerging in every game. In the semifinal, captain Adam O'Donoghue had been the man of the match top scoring with ten points and playing with an energy that reverberated through the team. Stevie Redmond also stepped up against Schull and had his finest game for SCS contributing nine points to the score. In the match against Ballsbridge every Eividas touch turned to gold while scoring an incredible sixteen points. Tomás was just amazing against the very talented St Munchins of Limerick. The Limerick point guard scored 24 points against Ballsbridge. He scored four against SCS. Not alone did he keep number ten quiet but he also top scored in this game with eight points. The names I mentioned may have grabbed the headlines but every first year who has proudly worn the purple shirt has given their all for the team. The way a team plays as a whole will always determine its success and this group of boys are a credit to our school.