It was a game that will be talked about over kitchen tables in Kerry for many a year to come, as Garvey’s Tralee Warriors produced the comeback of all comebacks this evening to win out in a heart stopping, overtime battle against UCD Marian in Dublin, 84-89.
The Kerry men certainly lived up to their Warriors moniker as, despite being down ten at one stage as the clock ticked down (74-64), they slowly but surely began to chip away at the reigning champions’ lead. Things certainly weren’t going in their favour though, with Conor Meany on fire for UCD Marian, while Tralee’s Dusan Bogdanovic left the court due to injury and Paul Dick, Eoin Quigley and Keith Jumper were all fouled out in the crucial closing stages.
However, despite being up against it, sheer grit and determination began to shine through. As the seconds ticked down and UCD remained in the lead by one point (80-79), a foul on Kieran Donaghy saw him headed for the free throw line, where he slotted home one from two to tie the game at 80 apiece and send the game to overtime. The battle continued there, with UCD edging back in front by one, but with Donaghy running the point, Tralee weren’t going down without a fight. They retook the lead 84-86 and young Irish international, Rapolas Buivydas hit home one of the most important free throws of his life to give the Tralee men a three-point cushion. A last chance shot from UCD didn’t fall, and with just over a second on the clock, a Donaghy inbound to Buivydas saw him hit the final score of the game to win out 84-89.
Now, the Men’s Super League is truly Tralee’s to lose. They face UCD Marian once more tomorrow on their home court at 5pm. Win the game and they will be crowned Super League champions for the first time in the club’s history. Lose tomorrow, and it’s still not over, as with Templeogue winning in Moycullen this evening, it would see Tralee face off against the Dubliners in a play-off final next week to determine who will be crowned champions.
Speaking afterwards, an emotional Kieran Donaghy reacted to their win: “UCD are champions for a reason – they’re a really good team. I can’t really explain it [the win]. Five Tralee fellas at the end and we just scrapped. It looked like it was gone, and we could do nothing else but fight and scrap for it. Fergal [O’Sullivan] made a big shot – he’s been making big shots all of his life – and that got us back into it.
“We stole it. Dusan was taken out with injury, Paul Dick fouled out, Keith Jumper fouled out, Eoin Quigley fouled out, it’s unbelievable. There was a lot of emotion to get us there tonight – nothing was working for us, we weren’t executing offensively, so we just had to go and grit it out, and claw, and fight. Conor Meany! You can’t give him a second or he’s nailing threes on you and they were tough shots and they look like they go in the minute they leave his hands. We had to dig it out and thankfully we’ve put ourselves in the position that we want – we have it on our home court now tomorrow to try and win a league and, worse case scenario, we’re in a play off. Now, we’ve to try bring ourselves down from this win. We’ve to try and recover and see can we go again.”
Alan Cantwell reports
Warriors Coach Pat Price have this reaction straight after the game…his mantra of next man up was never more relevant…
He says it is only half time in the 80 minutes of basketball between the sides…