Thunder strike for semi

by Gazette Reporter

GCD Swords Thunder stormed into the Hula Hoops National Cup semi-finals for the second time in as many years with an 80-70 win over UCD Marian last Friday night at the ALSAA.
The 10-point win sees Marian crash out of the competition a stage earlier than they knocked out the Thunder last season. Last year’s beaten finalists led for the very first time early in the final quarter but the north Dublin side showed the ice in their veins by making nine of their last 10 free-throw attempts.
The hosts started this one well and were 41-34 ahead at the break. Alex Dolenko, Mike Garrow and Sergi Guardia were putting points on the board and it the Thunder’s dominance remained up until the 28th minute when they lost their lead for the first time.
It was at that point that Dan James levelled things at 48-48 for Marian. The college were then leading with seven minutes on the clock thanks largely to Dustin Moreria, Conor Meany and Dan James.
But Dave Baker’s side showed cool heads to force a number of opportunities late on. Whilst under pressure, Marian racked up the fouls and with clock ticking, Swords’ accuracy shone and they booked their place in the semi-finals.
Swords will now take on the holders, UCC Demons on a massive night for the club in Cork in January.
Speaking to GazetteSport after the win, Baker was delighted to progress in a competition which means so much to the club. “It’s absolutely fantastic for this team to reach the national semi-final,” he said. “The National Cup is a competition that I believe is very special to every team in the country. It’s the only competition clubs can earn money from and, even more for the players, the finals are televised live which is brilliant.
“In our only second year in the Premier League and just the third competing at a high level, it’s a great achievement,” he added. “Swords would be the only fully amateur club in our league, where no players or coaches are paid and everything is done voluntarily so it’s a credit to all involved in the club and the area.”
The semi-final against reigning champions Demons will take place in the Cork side’s own arena next month, but Baker insists his side will go there without fear. “They’re an excellent side who were unbeaten last season and have started this one well,” he said.
“Even though it’s down as neutral we’re playing them on their court, but we’ll have everyone ready, we go to Kerry over the Christmas for a tournament to keep sharp and we’ll arrive in Cork ready to give them a game.
“Anytime they’ve lost in recent years it’s when their game plan has been upset early on so that’s what we’ll be looking to do.”

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