With the disappointments of last year firmly rooted in our minds, where no team reached a county final, we resolved to put things right this season.
The under 16 boys
The cadets, captained by the inspirational Tomás O'Mahony got us to our first county final of this year where we defeated a very strong Rosscarbery side by a scoreline of 25 to 33 points. In a packed Skibbereen Sports hall, the atmosphere crackled with excitement from tip to the final stunning 3 pointer shot with Eividas precision. Anyone who has seen this young man shoot will know what i mean. The SCS crowd created an atmosphere that leaves finals in the Neptune Stadium a pale comparison and inspired some sensational basketball from our team. It also shows the lunacy of bringing buses up to Cork when we have beautiful courts available nearby at a fraction of the cost and without causing untold damage to the environment. It also reduces the cost to the players.
The multi - talented Robbie Minihane was majestic under the boards and kept a firm lid on the Ross sides penetration to the basket. In our first encounter with our neighbours earlier in the season, they had scored 55 points, 52 of which were scored inside the paint and Robbie was instrumental in keeping the Ross side to a mere 25 points in the final.
Stevie Redmond also put in a starring role in the final scoring stunning three point shots, driving hard to the boards and keeping the excellent Peadar O'Rourke to a minimum. Peadar had top scored in our previous match and deserved our close attention. James O'Neill, Tomás and Ger MacEoin were also very influential players in bringing SCS our first county title this year.
This week our first and second years reached their respective county finals and a new winning mindset was born for all those who play basketball in SCS. Our target was to win all three titles and celebrate in style.
On Thursday, we set off for the city and the Neptune Stadium. Our tiny band of supporters looked lost in the vast surrounding but they never failed in their enthusiasm. Coláiste an Chraoibhin had thrown aside the challenge of all their opponents to date and we were fully aware of their offensive threat having notched up over 50 points in all their games. We were expecting a formidable challenge but our boys are tough and have become more resilient as the season has gone on.
Dylan Hourihane took the game by the scruff of the neck and flung himself into the action from the tip off. He was sensational in defence with Mollaidh O'Neill - type efficiency and clinical in attack, poppng in shot after shot. Joint captains Luca Harte and Brian O'Driscoll also put in starring performances. They were outstanding on the break, tenacious in defence and solid under the boards. While the Fermoy side had a huge size advantage, Mark Keating and Olan Hurley were very strong under the boards and in attack. However, both were in foul trouble early in the match and going forward they need to learn from this. Ruairi Collins was a joy to watch and delighted the crowds with his dazzling skills. All sixteen members of the squad played their part in bringing SCS our second county final of the season and the treble looked very much on.
Having disposed of all our opponents in emphatic style, our second years went into their final expecting to win. Who could blame them? In all their matches to date, all nineteen members of the squad played their part and no team had come withing 20 points of us. In the final Castletownbere CS had other ideas. Their American star Dylan was the player to shine from the start and popped in three pointer with lethal efficiency and drove strongly to the board making light of our feeble efforts to stop them. While our first five tried hard, the confidence drained from their limbs and they were a pale shadow of what they are capable of. We came off after the first quarter 11 points to one down, looking shell shocked and panic shot through the team.
The second five ignited our challenge and set to reducing the damage. Daniel Buckley put in an inspired performance and sustained his challenge right to the end of the match contributing 14 points to our total. He drove hard and successfully and combined beautifully with Eoghan Cawley to penetrate our opponents resolute 212 zone defence. Jack O'Neill also played a very solid, energetic role and brought some calm intelligence to our play. The stylish Kyle O'Sullivan and Darragh Dempsey also played well but both have more in their armour. By the end of the second quarter, we were back in the game and just a mere point down.
There was an air of panic palpable in the SCS air at the beginning of the second half and despite the spirited, passionate cheering of our panel, that air of nervousness prevailed in our play. With the game on a knife edge SCS was hit with a crucial blow with the loss of Colm Harrington to five fouls. The timing of his departure left us reeling as he has been our main weapon in attack all season and was our best defender to curb the Dylan attack when we played Beara earlier in the season. We traded scores for the next quarter but Dylan was in sensational form and was playing like a superstar finishing up with 23 points. Some of our players were also guilty of poor marking and leaving players free when doing man to man defence is asking for trouble. We paid the price for our carelessness in defence and our wreckless attempts to score on the other end, loosing out by 7 points at the final whistle.
At the end of the day we were masters of our own downfall. Perhaps we were over confident before the start. We will take on board the lessons learned from Thursday's defeat and use it to our advantage going forward. We have learned the hard way that there is a heavy price to be paid for complacency, that scoring chances have to be taken, that no one can switch off in defence and that basketball is a game where we have to develop guile and tactical sharpness to break down resolute, well organised zone defences.
The second years are a fantastic group of boys and will give everything to make it happen. While we have a huge number of our squad who have no club experience and only started the game when they came into our school, i would like to acknowledge the huge amount of work done by the club coaches in the Skibbereen Eagles who have brought on the club players so much. Steve Redmond, Dave Quinn, Angela, Jenny Brickley and Pat Dwyer, where would we be without you all? All things considered, it is a mark of how much progress we have made in one short season that we are unhappy with two county titles when three were on offer.