Pyrobel Killester en route to an 87-47 victory over Eanna last Sunday. Picture: Martin Doherty

“There’s nothing between us, that’s the problem,” Pyrobel Killester basketball coach Brian O’Malley jokes ahead of the Irish Superleague’s first playoff game since it switched to the a league-only format, necessary due to a tied regular season finish.

Killester face UCD Marian in the finale on Saturday, and with the two sides extremely familiar with each other, O’Malley is expecting a cagey game that comes down to fine margins.

“We’ll be looking to use the habits we’ve developed all year, though some elements will be the same and some will be different,” he explains. “There’s not much between the sides, but we’d prefer the game to be played at our pace.

“Both teams will try to score very early in the shot clock, but we have slightly different approaches after that,” O’Malley continues.

“Marian typically try to create a great scoring opportunity right at the end of the shot clock if they don’t score early on the break. They’re more of a half-court team. We’re happy to shoot anytime if there’s a good opportunity.

“The two Americans in the two sides play the same position but in a very different style, so that match up will be interesting. “The two point guards will be key to how things go, too.”

Unusually, both the top two sides have lost five games this season, in a league in which that would more commonly leave a team in fourth or fifth position. “Both teams have lost to teams outside the top six,” O’Malley says of the most competitive league in some time.

“I remember last time we won, in 2013, we had to travel to Cork and maybe Belfast, and that was it, but it’s different now.”

“The strength of the teams in the bottom half has really improved a lot. We also have the trip to Kerry to play Tralee, and there will be a second trip to Kerry next year as Killorglin were promoted.

“That adds an element. It needs more planning when it comes to meals, and getting your legs fresh after you arrive.

“There have also been a lot of games together recently because of the snow.”

The festivities of St Patrick’s Day will very much be put aside on the day. “This game would probably have happened on Wednesday or Thursday, only both teams need the recovery time, and that was our main concern,” O’Malley admits.

“But the day will contribute to the festival atmosphere. It really is full throttle for us. The Champions Trophy comes next, on Sunday and Monday.”
The superleague play off between Pyrobel Killester and UCD Marian is a winner takes it all contest taking place on St Patrick’s Day, at the National Indoor Arena in Tallaght, getting in at 6pm.