The Sem U16 basketball team’s season came to a conclusion on Sunday last 18th January 2015 in Newbridge at the All Ireland Play Off stage. The boys, who play in the A grade competition had won all their games in their regional section. They had comfortably beaten Granard, St. Joseph’s Drogheda and St. Mary’s Drogheda. St. Mary’s incidentally boast two Irish Internationals in their squad. However, their biggest scalp was their victory over St. Malachy’s Belfast in Belfast in was a cracker of a game which the Sem edged by two points on a scoreline of 44 to 42. This was a fantastic, confidence boosting victory over one of the elite basketball schools in the country. The boys then faced St. Eunan’s Letterkenny in a knock out game in the Sem last Friday. They were without the services of their ball handler, Robbie McAlister due to a broken hand, but they dispatched the Donegal challenge with relative ease on a score line of 55 – 40 points.
This victory secured a place in the All Ireland Play Offs which took place on Sunday. The format was a three team tournament with the winner progressing to the All Ireland Quarter Final. At this level the competition is always tough and this weekend was no exception. The Sem were slightly disadvantaged as they took to the court without captain Robbie McAlister and the influential Albert Seliu. The first and most critical game was against Templeogue College who had just beaten Newbridge College. The Dublin team with Irish International Sam Walsh as their point guard were red hot favourites to progress. The game started well for the Monaghan boys scoring the first two baskets. However, the Dublin team soon found their rhythm, first levelling the tie and then pushing ahead. There were bigger concerns for the Sem as their post player and captain, Michael O’Brien managed to pick up three fouls in that opening quarter. To Michael’s credit he managed to stay out of further foul trouble until the last two minutes of the game. The Sem lost the first quarter 14-8, but held their own in the second reaching half time 27-21 down. The third quarter ran away from the Sem so they approached the final eight minutes 13 points behind. The coaches decided to use a full court press to force their opponents to overturn the ball. This worked a treat as the previously composed Templeogue boys suddenly looked exposed and unsure. The Sem pulled the lead back to 3 points in a titanic effort, 51-48 points with three minutes remaining. The final nail in the coffin arrived however as St. Macartan’s point guard Andrew O’Connor was fouled out of the game. Josh Hughes and Conor McMahon had already preceded him out of the game. With a minimum number of players to finish out the game the Sem were in serious team foul trouble. The Dublin boys went to the free throw line regularly and made the Monaghan side pay. In total they scored 20 of their 62 points from the foul line, a sobering statistic. Templeogue eventually ran out winners by 10 points 62-52 and they progress to the All Ireland Quarter Final.
With Newbridge College to play and an outside opportunity to advance in the competition St. Macartan’s was very much up for this do or die encounter. The quarters were close fought with the Sem losing the first one by 5 points and winning the second by 8. The trend continued in the second half with the Sem maintaining a three point margin right to the buzzer. Two very high quality games of basketball took place on the day and the Monaghan boys can certainly hold their heads high. Michael O’Brien had an excellent day, scoring 23 and 24 points respectively and chipping in with five or six assists in both games. Andrew O’Connor complete with face mask was excellent as ball handler and bravely gave everything he had. Killian McAdam had a great day scoring 11 and 9 points in the matches and rebounded strongly in defence. Josh Hughes, Conor McMahon and Raivadas Lasas worked tirelessly and unselfishly on both sides of the court. Both Conor and Josh were unlucky to find themselves fouled off. A special word is due to two young players who made their U16 debut at the weekend. Conor McCrystal and Ryan Treanor never showed signs of being out of their depth. Four members of the U16 squad are Second Year students and they will bring a wealth of experience from this weekend to the Second Year team who start their season next week.
Team coaches Mr. Garret Coyle and Mr. Enda O’Brien deserve great credit for the progress made with this young team this year. St. Macartan’s now look forward to an U19 All Ireland A Quarter Final on the 10th February in the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght.