Liffey Celtics’ basketball side have taken their first ever women’s Super League title, defeating Carlow IT over the weekend to add top-spot in the regular season to their play-off victory – which followed a second place league finish – last time around.
The side have shown steady improvement in recent years and, in defeating Carlow, continued a run of only two league defeats all year prior to their regular-season finale against playoff chasing Killester on Wednesday night.
The comfortable 71-48 victory over Carlow was particularly sweet as the opposition were one of those two sides to have previously defeated the Celtics in the league this season.
Boss Mark Byrne, who came on-board at the start of last season, has praised his team’s ability to learn and commitment to the cause as being at the heart of his side’s success.
“The commitment to improving was there from the moment I came through the door in pre-season before we got started in 2017,” Byrne told the Dublin Gazette.
“We lost the cup final to Glanmire last year, and we really learnt from that. Sometimes the defeats are as valuable as the victories. Basketball is a game of fine margins and very fast-paced, so sometimes it takes experience to learn to win. We’ve learnt to close out games, and that’s really helped us this year, as a lot can change in the final two minutes.”
Killester, Liffey’s final-game opponents, currently sit fourth in the table, and are not yet guaranteed a playoff place.
That gives added weight to the contest, especially as there’s a possibility the two sides could play each other again at the weekend for a place in the season finale.
Alongside Carlow IT, the north-Dublin club are the only other side to have beaten the Celtics over the course of the year. DCU Mercy, Glanmire and Singleton are the other contenders for playoff places.
“We’ll definitely go out to win, rather than think about the consequences, as that’s the only way we know how to play,” Byrne said. “The two teams know each other well, so I don’t think they’ll be too many surprises, and we’ll worry about who ends up in fourth and who we have to take on next after the game.”
The first playoff game will not be scheduled until after the mid-week round of matches, but is most likely to take place on Sunday, following on from the men’s finale on St Patrick’s Day.
As for the weight put on that long-awaited table-topping league season?
“It probably means as much as a play-off victory, as coming out on top over the course of the season is a real statement, and has to be respected,” Byrne told us.
“You can’t get lucky and win a league title. Of course we’d love to win both this season, but this is the first one.
“It’s a big thing for the club and a great sign of where we are as a team.”