The St Finian's basketball squad.

St Finian’s aim to make amends in last 16 of all-Ireland basketball series

Report by Alina Siddiqui of St Finian’s

St Finian’s College’s U19 Boys Basketball team were met with an unfortunate loss as they faced Coláiste Choilm of Tullamore in the Midland Regional ‘B’ League final on Friday last, November 24. Travelling to Portlaoise for the game, the boys were determined to take home gold as they had done the previous season, but fate was not in their favour. A late start and the title at stake led to tensions running high among both the crowd and the teams as players took their positions on the court.

Coláiste Coilm took the first score of the game, suggesting trouble for the boys in black and yellow, but that wasn’t to become clear until the third and fourth quarter, and St Finian’s dominated until half time, with stellar performances from Ryan Bell and Rian Keaveney.

Captain John Fry scored the first basket of the game for the Mullingar side, and there followed a display of skilled footwork from Dara Keaveney as well as calculated precision from Andrzej Volusko Opala to score a 3-pointer that had the supporters screaming.

A number of substitutions didn’t hinder the efforts and flow of those on the court as they battled for possession. Strong performances from Dylan Spendlow, John Akinalo, Alex Walsh and Oisin Fanning on both the defensive and offensive ends of the court helped St Finian’s to control the first half.

At half time St Finian’s sat comfortably on a 14-point lead.

Then the cracks began to show and the boys couldn’t meet the energy and drive of the Tullamore side in the second half. The third quarter ended with St Finian’s maintaining their lead of 5 points, but after a show of uncommonly mediocre defence from St Finian’s, as well as a number of much needed free throws for Coláiste Choilm, there were fast breaks on both the court and the scoreboard from Tullamore as they began to close the gap.

As the fourth began, the energy in the hall reflected the anxiety and determination of the players, but Coláiste Choilm took the lead by a point with 4 minutes to go, and hope was diminishing.

The opposition points flew up, and almost as if to confirm the pressure, so did the Finian’s foul count. The boys fought to the end, and vice captain Dara Keaveney took the last 2 points of the game seconds before the whistle blew, resulting in a final score of 35-30 to the Tullamore side.

St Finian’s didn’t bring home gold, but because they reached the regional final, coach Shane Campbell and his team will join Coláiste Choilm in the All-Ireland ‘B’ last 16 series in January, albeit without home advantage. The odds are still promising for a team who will feel they left this one behind and want to make amends and progress in the competition.