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Brunell out to make history

Wednesday, 23rd January, 2019 4:27pm

History beckons this weekend for Singleton SuperValu Brunell. After a series of semi-final heartbreaks in recent years, the northside basketball club are heading to the National Basketball Arena this Sunday in an attempt to collect their first Paudie O'Connor Cup.

Their coach Tim O'Halloran, best known for his playing and coaching days with Blue Demons, took over the reigns at the start of the season and has seen huge progression so far this season. A win in the cup, he admits, would be a dream.

“Everyone is absolutely buzzing in the club. We were training this week and the girls were all in good form. I've been there, both on the sideline and on the court in cup finals, and I just want to girls to enjoy the week and the lead-up, it's a special sort of occasion that will fly by!”

The Brunell girls, affectionately nicknamed the Nellies, had a huge win last Sunday in the Super League over DCU Mercy with confidence high following the win.

At one stage, Brunell were 14 points adrift, only to making a storming second half comeback and take the win, 64-59. With DCU second in the league table, O'Halloran is thrilled with his side, given the week ahead.

“I had said before that game that I wanted the whole squad to play a game before the final, so we had started the DCU game off with a different team to what we'd normally have started. I'm not saying that's the reason we weren't winning at that stage but it was a factor, certainly.

“Then for the second half, we brought the girls in and they took over. It was a brilliant win considering the timing. We're playing well the last few weeks which is obviously pleasing, esp considering how things started off for us,” reflects O'Halloran.

The start of the season was far from perfect for Brunell who suffered four losses in their opening six games. However a quick glance at the fixture list will tell you the girls had a tough start with Courtyard Liffey Celtics, DCU Mercy and two derbies, against Fr Mathews and Ambassador UCC Glanmire, making up the losses. The two derby losses were particularly tough, losing by two points to Mathews and by one to Glanmire.

However, Brunell have since become a more balanced side and have progressed through the league and cup campaigns, with their hard work and patience rewarded with Sunday's long-awaited cup final appearance.

“I came in to the team at the start of the season as the new coach,” recalls O'Halloran, “and it took a while for things to settle. You'd expect that, I was getting used to a totally different scenario then what I'm used to as it's my first ever girls team and the girls were getting used to me as well so that all takes time.

“It took a few weeks to get things right and adjust, but we got there and that shows now in our basketball. They're a great side, a number of the girls have played in cup finals at underage level but never in a senior final, so it's new to them and while it's easy to try and play it down and try to keep the focus, I know myself that a final is different. But I'm really enjoying the buildup this week and to be there now and to have that game on Sunday, I can't wait!”

As for his opposition? Tim says: “I'm up against it!”

Courtyard Liffey Celtics are unbeaten all season and are down as favourites for most after beating the holders DCU Mercy, in their semi-final.

“If you gave me the option, I wouldn't want to trade places with their coach. I love being the underdog going in to a game – all the expectancy is on the other side. They're (Liffey Celtics) a great side and they've huge confidence but they're not cocky, they seem like nice girls. The task the girls have is huge but I've been doing everything I can to prepare them and get the team ready and they're more then able.

“I have Danielle O'Leary and Amy Murphy who are both internationals, we've the professionals then and the younger girls, so there's plenty of depth there and like I said, everyone is buzzing! We're exactly where we want to be and we're all aware of what's ahead but I just can't wait, I wouldn't change one thing about it!

Joined on the sideline by Mark Foley, who Tim brought in this year with him, as well as Brunell stalwart Michelle Tobin, it's so far so good for the trio and their team but this Sunday is certainly Brunell's biggest test to date.

“I just want it to be Sunday now!” says O'Halloran. “I brought Mark in as someone fresh like myself to the team and we've Michelle as well who has huge experience with Brunell through the years and I'm very happy with the setup. If we could get the win now on Sunday it would be amazing, like I said we're certainly up against it, but we'll give it everything we have to bring that cup back with us!”

The Paudie O'Connor Cup Final will take place in the National Basketball Arena. Tip-off is at 5.30pm on Sunday 24 January.

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