All roads lead to the Castlerea Enterprise Hub this weekend where Lonleitros Basketball League champions, Castlerea Kings, do battle in the Top 4 Cup from Friday (22nd) to Sunday (24th).
The Kings will enjoy home court advantage when they face off against familiar foes Mayo Gladiators this Friday night at 8.30 pm. The Gladiators boast many former Kings in their ranks and managed to qualify for the Top 4 in this their first season. They also have a decent record against the Kings, having split the two games this season. They are also just one of three teams to have beaten the Kings this season and the only team in the Top 4 to have inflicted defeat on the champions.
The Castlerea side will be relying on home advantage and a typically raucous hometown crowd to help spur them on to a final place.
The Kings, of course, are currently on a seven-game win streak since their last defeat to the Gladiators in Barnacarroll back in December of last year.
The whole squad has contributed to this recent success and features a consistent scoring threat from top marksmen, Thomas Callaghan and Joseph Henry, and the gargantuan post presence and passing subtlety of Joe Fleming. The dominant presence of guards Daniel Doherty and Sean McDermott, have helped the Kings to flourish since that defeat last Christmas.
Strength in depth has also been a key factor in this title winning run and Sean Moran, Garbhan Madigan and player/coach Michael O’Flanagan have the ability to come off the bench and change the pace in any game at this level. Josh McDermott and John McHugh are also capable of contributing energetic displays when given their opportunity.
The other Top 4 semi-final sees this year’s second-placed team Longford Torpedoes taking on Carrick Cougars at 4 pm on Saturday just a fortnight after the Cougars ended the Torpedoes’ title hopes in their final league clash.
The Top 4 Final will be played on Sunday at 7 pm in the Hub.
Also at the Hub this weekend, the Men’s Shield will be contested between the teams that finished fifth to eighth in the Lonleitros League. Top seeds Mohill Mavericks will play Sligo All-Stars at 2.30 pm on Saturday while Carrick-based ‘Lteam’ take on Athlone IT at 7 pm.
The Ladies’ Top 4 opens proceedings on Friday night at 7 pm as fourth seed Mohill take on the undefeated Mustangs of Castlebar. Whoever prevails will face the winners of Longford and Boyle (5.30 pm on Saturday) in the ladies’ final at 5.30 pm on Sunday.