The U-16 girls travelled to Galway last weekend to compete in the ‘A’ All Ireland Club Championships.
This was always going to be a difficult weekend for the girls after being drawn in a very tough pool with St. Joseph’s from Kerry, Maree the Galway champions, Fr Mathews the Cork runners up and Liffey Celtic the Dublin champions.
The first game against St. Josephs started very slow with nerves getting to the girls. Once they settled into the game and began to relax and play some fee flowing basketball their opponents were unable to cope.
The intensity of their defence was immense and they forced many turnovers resulting in fast break opportunities. Although the girls didn’t play to their capabilities they came off 25 point winners and set themselves up nicely for the rest of the day.
Game two was against the Galway champions and eventual finalists Maree. This was always going to be a very tough game. Maree started the stronger but after a change in defensive tactics Portlaoise began to take back control of the game.
It was a fast game flowing quickly from one end of the floor to the other. Although the teams were well matched Maree were capitalising on unusual missed chances from the Portlaoise girls. The girls missed 14 free throw opportunities in this game which could have been the difference between winning and losing, but it just wasn’t meant to be on the day. Maree ran out winners on a score line of 43-35
The third game saw Portlaoise take on Fr. Mathews of Cork. Fr. Mathews had earlier beaten Maree who the girls were defeated by. However having knowing that we had the beatings of Maree the girls went into this game feeling confident and with the realisation that a win here would keep them well in the mix for qualification. This was one of the best performances by the Portlaoise girls.
They were 100% up for the game from the throw in giving themselves a nine point lead after just four minutes. The game continued in this manner and the girls pushed on to win by 28 points. The stats spoke for themselves in this game with Porlaoise making 75% of shots taking and picking up over 50 rebounds. This was a massive improvement on the previous game.
The final group game was against one of the favourites for the tournament Liffey Celtics. This was a must win game for both teams with the winners gaining automatic qualification for semi finals. Both teams started nervous both aware of the importance of the game. This was arguably one of the best games of the weekend.
Both teams played some superb basketball at both ends of the floor. It was a game where we had to try and capitalise on any mistakes made by the opposition. The game was level after the first quarter and only two points separated them at the half.
There was still everything to play for, for both sides. Going into the last quarter Portlaoise were trailing by four but knew that they had every chance of still winning this game. However it wasn’t meant to be on the day. Although the game was back level with just minutes to go some uncharacteristic mistakes resulted in Liffey Celtic regaining their four point lead and Portlaoise were unable to draw it back.
As a result of this loss we now had to play Old Leighlin, the South East representatives, in a play off game for 5th and 6th position. Having played this team a few times already this year we were confident that we could go out on a high with a win in this game. And the girls didn’t disappoint. They showed great character to come back after the defeat to Liffey Celtic and come away with a convincing win with all players playing their part in the victory.
Overall, this was a weekend of basketball that the girls should be so proud of. Although it didn’t finish as we would have hoped travelling to Galway on Friday last the girls showed massive character and a never-give-up attitude. The coaches couldn’t have asked for anymore from them. well done to all.
The girls will play again next Saturday morning in the semi-final of the Top 4 in Portarlington at 10.30am.
Panel: Jennifer O’Neill, Ailbhe Griffen, Ellen Dunphy, Sekenat Shabowale, Erone, Fitzpatrick, Maeve Phelan, Aisling McAUley, Emer Healy, Rebecca Grant, Claire Melia, Aoife Fitzpatrick, Roisin Quigley, Ellen Connolly, Leah Dowling, Aine seale, Beth Carroll.