Conall Devlin reviews UCD Marian’s 2011/2012 Superleague and National Cup campaigns with Daniel James
UCD Marian came into the 2011/2012 campaign on an unprecedented high after snatching a historic National Cup victory over Killester last year. Going into the season, and as is normal for Superleague Basketball teams with American recruits, changes to personnel were made. Outgoing American James Crowder was replaced by Donnie Stith, an imposing 6’6 centre who played Division 1 NCAA Basketball at Tulane University, New Orleans. Marian were forced into further adjustments to a new look front court however. Seasoned veterans Neil Baynes and Barry Glover were no longer present- Baynes went travelling while Glover opted to play Division 1 Basketball- so UCD welcomed back Kevin Meany and Kevin Foley who had been working in Belfast. A young talented roster was further bolstered by the addition of scholarship recipient Breandain O’Riain.
Unfortunately silverware success eluded Marian in what proved to be a transition year. Strong preseason form foreshadowed what was a “let down” in the eyes of influential guard Daniel James in both League and Cup. A 6-14 league record illustrates the inconsistencies they struggled through as the team had to cope without James for three months after a knee injury. They relinquished their National Cup defence to eventual winners UL Eagles in the quarter final. Things didn’t quite go to plan with Donnie Stith who was sent back to the States in February and was replaced for the final three games of the season by Owen McNally, a 6’7 forward who had played NCAA Basketball for Spring Hill College, Alabama. They pulled off a massive upset defeating Cork outfit Neptune in the League quarter final before going down to heavy 82-55 semi final defeat to DCU Saints.
It wasn’t an ideal sequence of events for Fran Ryan’s squad as James acknowledges: “our inconsistency was disappointing. We rarely played well for all 40 minutes in any game. The inability to put a string of wins and good performances together as a team meant there were games when we were blown out and really we didn’t give ourselves a chance against DCU”.
It was sometimes a state of flux that the inexperienced Belfield team found themselves in, however it wasn’t a season completely without its positives: “It’s my 4th year with the team and that was the 1st time we’d won in Neptune’s gym against them in Cork which is always hard.” The 21 year old praised the leadership of team captain Niall Meany and the scoring efforts by Kevin Foley.
Looking ahead to this week’s Intervarsity’s in UL, James sees no reason why UCD can’t retain their title: “I think we’d have to go into it as favourites as we have the core of last year’s team still playing. I’d be disappointed if we didn’t give ourselves a shot at the final again.” And with the age profile of the roster still in the early twenties, there is no reason why Marian can’t translate collegiate success to club success next year. Onwards and upwards.