Portlaoise Panthers set for bumper weekend of National Cup action in Cork

Rory Delaney

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Rory Delaney

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rory@leinsterexpress.ie

Portlaoise Panthers set for bumper weekend of National Cup action in Cork

Claire Melia of Portlaoise Panthers.

This weekend promises to be one of the busiest for some time for Portlaoise Panthers, as four of the club's teams head for Cork to take part in National Cup semi-finals.

The club's continued progression on the court has seen them become an ever increasing player at National level, and that will play out over this Saturday and Sunday.

The games will be split between the Neptune Stadium and Mardyke Arena in UCC, in what promises to be a feast of basketball action.

On Saturday morning at 10am, their U-20 Womens team will take to the court against a very strong Liffey Celtics outfit at 10am in the Mardyke Arena. The Liffey Celtics U-18 team knocked out a highly fancied Panthers U-18 team at the quarter-final stage late last year, but the Panthers U-20s will have Claire Melia in the mix, so will be hopeful of getting one over the Kildare side.

Immediately after that game, the Poanthers U-20 mens team will take on Dublin Lions in their semi-final. The U-20 side have enjoyed comprehensive wins over Killester (72-56) and Limerick Lions (78-50) to get this far.

Much of this team are playing with the club's senior national league side, so they have plenty of top-level experience on which to draw, as well at 7ft centre James Gormley.

That night, at the Neptune Stadium, the senior ladies team will go head-to-head with the Ulster University Elks in their semi-final at 8pm. Maree or Swords Thunder will await the winners in the final.

The final Panthers team in action over the weekend will be their boys U-18 team, as they face a daunting task against Belfast Star, who boast the high-scoring CJ Fulton in their ranks.

Fulton rose to prominence in last year's school's cup finals when he scored 47 points for St Malachy's College to an All-Ireland title.

The Portlaoise defence will have a job on their hands to counteract a lethal perimeter shooter, but they have plenty of talent themselves, with some of their squad also featuring at national league level for the club's senior team.