UCD Marian secure a narrow victory in Dublin Senior final

UCD Marian were crowned Dublin Senior Champions in Inchicore last Sunday, writes Colm Lakes

Final Score: Eanna 66 – UCD Marian 70

UCD Marian were crowned Senior Dublin Cup Division 1 Champions last Sunday evening in Inchicore, in a game which saw a last-minute brace from Gary Edge to secure the game for UCD. They faced off against Eanna, a team who were right on their tails at the top of the league, and both knew it would prove to be a tight affair.

Missing key man Barry Glover added an extra hurdle in UCD’s path to glory. Eanna started the game the better of the two teams, with a high tempo that UCD struggled to cope with. Paddy Young contributed the bulk of Marian’s scores early on, as UCD tried hard just to stay in touch. Gary Edge was relatively anonymous in the first half as he battled with Eanna player/coach Ciaran MacEvilly.  Eanna looked to Philip Reynolds for their scores, his size and mobility proving to be very difficult for Marian to handle. Despite their dominant start, Eanna were unable to put points on the board and the first quarter ended level 16-16.

UCD made a few changes to begin the second quarter, while Eanna remained unchanged. This may have been the reason for Eanna’s 8-0 run early in the second, while Marian struggled to find cohesion. However, the National Cup finalists were not disheartened and began to claw their way back into the game. Eanna made their first substitution of the match halfway through the second quarter, a tactical error which led to key players being tired and getting into foul trouble early. As the quarter wound down, the momentum began to switch to UCD and they closed the gap to six, with Gary Edge contributing multiple assists. Mark Ryan and Ciaran Dunne were the main scorers as the half time score was 37-31 in favour of Eanna.

Marian knew they would have to step up their efforts to avoid a second defeat in a final in two weeks. They came out firing early and drew level within the first few minutes of the second half. Midway through the third quarter, UCD increased their defensive pressure, pressing their opposition up the court in a zonal trap, which the tired Eanna struggled to cope with. However, through the quality of Ciaran MacEvilly, Eanna found a lifeline in the form of three straight three-pointers as the UCD crowd fell silent. Robert Keane then hit a buzzer-beater three-pointer to break the deadlock at the end of the third, the score 57-54, but the momentum was with UCD Marian.

As crunch time approached, UCD set the benchmark for the fourth quarter with two quick scores. The game was tit for tat from then on out, with UCD scoring threes from Edge and Mark Byrne while Eanna looked to Keane, MacEvilly and their Under-20 stars Ian and Neil Lynch for their outside threat. The latter of the twins was fouled on a three-point attempt, allowing him three shots from the free throw line in a huge play for Eanna.

Both teams had key players fouled out in crucial moments of the game, but UCD had enough depth on the bench to cope, while Eanna suffered heavily with the loss of Reynolds. The final minutes were tight, with the scores frequently separated by just one point. The game changer came in the final thirty seconds.

UCD had a one-point lead and possession; they held on to the ball and as the shot clock ran down, they misfired but Gary Edge managed to secure the loose ball. Eanna fouled him to send him to the line, and with only eleven seconds on the clock Gary Edge scored both of his free throws to put Marian up by three. Eanna pushed down the court in search of an open three-pointer. However, UCD’s stellar defence kept them searching. Neil Lynch could not find a pass to either MacEvilly or Keane, and when he tried himself Gary Edge showed his class and experience, coming up with a big steal. He was fouled and sent to the line with a chance to put the game out of reach, which is exactly what he did, burying the disappointment of their National Cup final with it.

UCD impressed throughout, despite being behind for most of the game. The most notable performances were from Edge, Byrne and Under-17 player Mark Ryan, who contributed twenty points, a very impressive performance from a player who looks set to have a successful career in basketball ahead of him. The game finished 66-70, as UCD Marian celebrated claiming another trophy for their increasingly impressive cabinet.