The first club derby took place last Friday night in front of a packed St Marys Hall.
Club23 Panthers made up entirely of players who came from the clubs underage set up took on a much more experienced O’Loughlins Panthers in what has become a standout fixture in the midland league over the past three seasons.
Team Club23 had not yet recorded a victory over their club mates but confidence was high that this year was their year. Team Club 23 were aiming to stay in the hunt for the league title while Team O’Loughlins were hoping to keep their hopes of making the Top4 alive.
As the game started it became clear that this would be a low scoring affair as both teams knew their opponents so well. Both teams were getting stops in defence and struggling to get scores on the board in offence. Team Club23 struck first with a fine basket from Chris Higgins.
This is a lead that Team Club23 would hold onto for the entire forty minutes. Team O’Loughlins hit back with baskets from the ever dangerous Peter O’Sullivan and Greg Dunne. Benny Carroll again controlled everything for the young outfit. He has shown control and a maturity on the floor way beyond his years. The quarter ended with Club23 leading 11-8.
The second quarter began and again it was Craig Scully and Chris Higgins who were the main threats on offence. All year long these two players have been racking up double digit numbers on offence. This quarter was one of the main reasons Club23 won this contest.
They were scoring at ease on the offensive end and Team O’Loughlins were struggling to get past Team Club23’s man to man defence. Jack Scully, Benny Carroll and Jack Dooley also chipped in with scores in this quarter. Team O’Loughlins got a few scores from the Dunne brothers inside. The quarter ended with Team Club23 leading 38- 16 at half time.
Everyone present knew that this game was not over yet. Team O’Loughlins came out very strong in the third quarter. They knew one thing they did have was size. They started to use this size and physicality to their advantage.
They started to cut into lead with some strong plays by Pierce Fagan. He was causing Club23 serious problems. This game really came to life in this quarter. Both teams were leaving everything on the floor with any friendships between the two teams being forgotten about for the time on court.
Team Club 23 kept plugging away with the Scully brothers and Higgins hitting priceless baskets. Chris Higgins and Craig Scully combined for forty six points out of fifty nine points which is an outstanding contribution by any standards. Team Club 23 finished the third quarter leading 48-39.
The fourth quarter began and Team O’Loughlins started the better cutting the lead to five points. Team Club 23 were rattled, Benny Carroll once again stepped up and took control of the game. He got Club23 back to what they do best, quick ball rotation.
Within four minutes Pierce Fagan was fouled out for Team O’Loughlins. This was a huge blow for last years champions. Club 23 kept the score board ticking over with good free throw shooting to see out the game. The game ended on a score line of 59-50. The result keeps Team Club23 right in the fight for the league title.