The University of Limerick was alive with the chants and cheers of school basketball supporters on Thursday last as it hosted the 1st and 2nd year finals. Rathangan had fought hard to qualify for the semi-final after two extremely tight qualifier games against Foxrock and Abbeyfeale, the latter going to extra time.
The day had finally arrived and both girls and coaches were anxious yet excited to meet their opponents. Castleisland of Kerry were the only team standing in the way of an All Ireland final spot for Rathangan.
Castleisland started the game well finishing some smart fast break moves. Rathangan soon settled and good defensive work by Julia Marron and Aine Nash allowed both to combine in finishing some baskets in style which kept Rathangan in touch.
Rathangan bolted out of the traps in the second quarter as the influential and dominant Claire Melia came to the fore working well on defence and converting on offence. Shauna Quirke ran the court excellently and played the ball to fellow first year Melia for both of them to finish successfully.
Rathangan came to life in the third quarter with Marron, Nash, Melia, McLoughlin and O’Brien taking to the floor. Teamwork and intense defence paid off and left Castleisland with a small lead leading into the final quarter.
As Rathangan clawed their way back into the game by trailing by just 3 points. An injury induced stoppage caused a 15 minute delay as a Castleisland player was treated.
She was applauded for continuing the game but she could not do enough for her team as Rathangan rallied together and demonstrated true grit and determination to run out winners by 5 points with a final score of 40 – 35.
Rathangan had now earned themselves a place in the All Ireland Final against Christ King Cork.
In the opening quarter, Rathangan found it difficult to find the basket while Christ King focused on their outside shooting strength. The first quarter ended on a scoreline of 18 - 5 in favour of the Lee side girls with Rathangan scores coming from Aine Nash and May O’Brien.
Early in the second quarter Rathangan cut through the Cork defence to try and claw back a few baskets. With some good rebounding and scoring from Claire Melia and Shauna Quirke, Rathangan began to find their feet and narrowed the margin somewhat. Christ King held a slender eight point lead at the interval (20 – 12).
In the third quarter Rathangan continued to pile on the pressure and outscored their opponents 16 – 9. Claire Melia and May O’Brien dominated the boards and got some vital scores. A further basket from Aine Nash on the fast break put just 1 point between the teams at the end of the third quarter (29 – 28).
The final quarter began with Claire Melia leveling the score from the free throw line. This was quickly followed up by a lay-up shot from Melia. This was however cancelled out by Christ King’s Niamh Lynch before May O’Brien and Alanna McLoughlin stepped up to slot the ball in the basket for Rathangan.
With just 40 seconds left on the clock, Rathangan led by 4 points and it looked like victory was on their side. Christ King never say die attitude was shown in the closing seconds of the game, however, as Ciara Kiely scored a basket and the resulting free throw unfortunately for the Rathangan girls time was not on their side with the score 35 – 36 the buzzer sounded much to the disappointment of the Rathangan girls, coaches and supporters. This was a huge achievement for Rathangan who are second best in Ireland, only a point separating us. Much credit must go to Mr. Donovan, Mrs. Ashe and Ms Nerney for their time and dedication to this team and also to the girls who committed themselves to training throughout the year.
Team: Aine Nash