DCU Mercy co-captains Aisling Sullivan, left, and Sarah Woods celebrate. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

A GAME of last-gasp shots, of closing seconds, of passion, sheer grit, determination and glory. Those are just some of the words that can sum up an absolutely incredible finale to the 2018 Hula Hoops National Cup finals weekend as DCU Mercy completed an incredible treble of wins at the National Basketball Arena when they overcame Ambassador UCC Glanmire by just one point, 72-71
“Am I dreaming? To win by a point?! Nobody even imagines that in Cup finals,” said a dazed and emotional captain and MVP Sarah Woods after she put in a superb 21-point performance.
“We’ll never forget this moment. It’s been a while for the likes of myself and Aisling Sullivan – and for us to lift the cup together was extra special.”
A while indeed, as it was 2011 when DCU Mercy last lifted the Women’s National Cup but now, in 2018, they have not only lifted it following an absolutely thrilling game against a five in-a-row chasing Glanmire, adding to Under-18 and Under-20 women’s Cup titles.
The game dished up everything a fan could hope for in a final on the marquee weekend of the Irish basketball calendar.
The lead changed hands 12 times over the 40 minutes with the Dubliners edging clear in the dying minutes. Ashley Primm’s three-point attempt on the buzzer would have given Glanmire their fifth title in a row and the story we tell now could have been oh so different.
“That could have gone in,” agreed winning coach, Mark Ingle. “In fact, I thought the game was level and then they all started shouting and screaming and I looked up at the board and realised we had won! I had been planning the next play, telling the players where to go!”
Indeed, the intensity was there right from tip-off and it was obvious by the end of a close and tense first quarter that this game was going to live up to and exceed all expectations as DCU took a 19-16 lead at the end of the first.
Woods, Tiffany Corselli, Alex Masaquel and Rachel Huijsdens were all hugely instrumental in a win that will last in the memory for a long time, and it was the defensive intensity of all three Mercy teams this weekend that was truly the hallmark.
Glanmire served up their own magic, with Claire Rockall and Primm lighting the fuse at the end of the second quarter, and the bomb went off when Casey Grace drained a 20-footer for her first basket of the game. It capped a 13-0 run and a 37-35 lead at half time.
Mark Ingle had ten minutes to let the smoke clear and DCU went back to work in the third but Glanmire’s lead was still 59-54 heading into the fourth – Puerto Rican international Adily Martucci had chipped in a seven-point quarter while Dwyer locked up her double-double.
DCU Mercy were behind twice in the last five minutes and it was Under 20 captain Aoife Maguire who got the vital baskets to swing momentum.
Defeat and glory in basketball are millimetres apart. On Sunday it was DCU Mercy’s turn to get their measurements right.