The Midlands men’s team came to the National Arena with a very young side and gained a massive amount of experience taking on the best the other regions had to offer.
Their side was made up of eight under 18 players from both Kestrels and Portlaoise Panthers along with four senior players, accounting for themselves excellently in their group defeats to Dublin and eventual winners from the North. In their second game of the day they took on the North East and showed that they were well able to compete at this level and cemented their place in the Shield final with a well deserved victory.
The final saw the Midlands side up against the North East for the second time after the North East defeated Galway in the semi. Kevin Donoghue got the Midlanders going with a three pointer early on which was quickly followed by a great jump shot from Conor Foster. The North East replied to keep the game tight but five points from Conor Vandendries pushed his side ahead 12-9 after the first quarter.
The second quarter was another close affair with both defences coming out on top. Brilliant defence from Liam Guinan and Jamie Dooley under the boards kept a much more physical North East side at bay. The Midlanders were also finding it difficult to penetrate the opposing defence and resorted to shooting from distance to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Three pointers from Evan Maher and Kevin Donoghue gave the lads a two point lead at half time.
The experienced Kevin Donoghue and David Glynn were instrumental in the second half as they rallied their young counterparts into playing top class basketball both ends of the floor. Donoghue again added to his game high tally with another two big three pointers to keep his side in the lead. Tight defence on the perimeter from Vandendries, Foster and Maher limited good ball into the North East big men. At the other end Conor Foster again hit a nice shot to give the Midlanders a four point lead going into the last quarter.
The final quarter was a nervous affair for all involved but the youngsters had played as a team the whole tournament and were not about to give the game away. The North East came back strongly and took the lead early in the quarter.
Conor Vandendries settled his side down converting two free throws before David Glynn found himself open outside to drain a massive three pointer to take the lead. Again the North East replied to draw the game level and following a couple of opportunites both ends, the Midlanders found themselves with the last possession of the game. Up stepped captain Kevin Donoghue, taking the buzzer shot from beyond the arc and giving his side a great victory over a very experienced outfit.
This was a brilliant weekend for these players to experience and is sure to bring together more clubs and players in the future.
Midlands Team: Conor Foster, Jack Dooley, James Dunne, Shane O’Neill, Conor Vandendries, Kevin Donoghue, Mark Bartley, Jamie Dooley, David Glynn, Evan Maher, Liam Guinan, Jack Scully. Coach: Martin Conroy Asst: Dorothy Fahy.