Baking up a Thunder storm

by Gazette Reporter

THE biggest night of GCD Swords Thunder’s arrives this Saturday in the National Basketball Arena when they take on Templeogue in the Hula Hoops men’s National Cup Final.
The Arena will host a feast of national finals over the course of the weekend but the seven days leading up to it are often labelled “the longest week of the year” for those involved in basketball on these shores.
It’s a saying that Swords head coach Dave Baker agreed with as GazetteSport spoke to him in the lead-up to Saturday’s massive game. “We’re all very much looking forward it; the whole club is excited, but I just wish it would come faster. The waiting around gets to you a bit.”
Swords reached the final after an underdog triumph over UCC Demons in Cork earlier this month. The 103-82 win was accomplished through Thunder completely upsetting the Demons’ rhythm, something Baker said he would look to do when we last spoke before the semi-final.
“I’ll admit I’m a bit of a freak when it comes to preparation,” he said quite bluntly. “Perhaps others wouldn’t obsess over stats and tapes before a game but I do.
“When I was looking back on tapes of Demons, I noticed certain flaws in their play and gaps that were there to exploit. It was all well and good me spotting that but, credit to the team, they took on board what I said and implemented the gameplan perfectly.”
Saturday brings another challenge in the form of Templeogue. The sides have met twice in the Premier Division already this season, with the south Dublin side winning the first game 81-80 at home back in October. Two weeks ago, Swords got revenge with an 80-69 win on their home court, but Baker is reading little into those results.
“It’s a cup final on Saturday, anything can happen on the day,” he said. “They are a good side; I think they have a couple of injury worries but still have plenty of talent.
“They’ve also just brought in Paddy Kelly, an ex-Irish international who was named the sixth best Irish player of all-time in a recently published list. We haven’t got any hidden gems like that for Saturday but we’ll be confident enough.
“It’ll also be a different atmosphere for sure. The place will be packed; there’ll be a lot of media attention and the game will be live on television.
“With that said, I think my group of players are quite grounded and will deal with any added pressure.
“The likes of Kevin Lacey, Isaac Westbrooks and Alex Dolenko all have plenty of experience in big games, as do others in the squad so I’m not worried about that.”

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