A packed National Basketball Arena saw the first 2013 All-Ireland Schools Cup go to Donegal as Colaiste Ailigh, Letterkenny claimed the U16 C Boys title after a closely fought encounter with Pobail Scoil Neasain of Baldoyle in Dublin.
Colaiste Ailigh, Letterkenny 39 (24)
Scoil Neasain, Baldoyle 34 (20)
Both teams started the game somewhat tentatively and it was three and a half minutes before the first score of the game was registered when Sean Mac a tSaoir converted a free throw.
The slow start was not caused by a shortage of chances however as both teams had success driving to the basket early on. The ball simply refused to drop despite the close in attempts, a problem that would quickly rectify itself as the players’ nerves settled.
By the end of the first quarter the score read 18 to 10 in favour of the boys from Letterkenny who proffered from some fine outside shooting by Evin Breathnach and Maitís Mac Ceallabhuí.
For Scoil Neasain, Gabriel Ogundipe was proving to be a major force inside and it was evident he would be a thorn in the Colaiste Ailigh defence all afternoon.
In the second quarter, Scoil Neasain dragged themselves back into contention, led by their captain and point guard Kevin Murphy who directed affairs on the court. The boys from Baldoyle were aided by the introduction of Sean Smith who quickly contributed four points helping his team enter the half-time break down by just four, 24 to 20.
Set up for an exciting showdown, the second half did not disappoint the large and boisterous crowd in attendance as the two sides traded blows with the gap on the score board never growing greater than six points.
The highlight of the third period was a superb up and under move by Colaiste Ailigh’s Mac a tSaoir that wrestled the lead back off Scoil Neasain directly after they had finally tied it up.
The period ended 30 to 28 in favour of Colaiste Ailigh whose Oisin O Cleirigh was beginning to exert a bigger influence the longer the game went on, scoring his 13th and 14th point early in the fourth to extend his team’s lead.
Scoil Neasain were not to be dismissed so easily however and continued strong play from Ogundipe and Murphy, who were ably assisted by Smith, had them within touching distance coming down the stretch.
It was not to be however as Colaiste Ailigh always kept their noses in front and when Evin Breathnach and then Maitís mac Ceallabhuí forced turnovers in the dying minutes it proved the decisivie blow, leading to the Letterkenny school winning on a final scoreline of 39 to 34.
Colaiste Ailigh, Letterkenny: 39 (24) (O Cleirigh 15, S Mac a tSaior 9, E Breathnach 6)
Pobail Scoil Neasain, Baldoyle: 34 (20) (G Ogundipe 16, S Smith 8, P Shannon 4)