It was a clash of dominant men wearing 13 as UCD Marian took on Killester for a place in the Irish cup final. Royce Williams wore it for the orange of Killester, Mike Garrow in the yellow of UCD. On Saturday in Cork, they went to war. Emmet Ryan on a cracker in the Mardyke
Sometimes you just want to see two guys throw everything they have at each other to see who is the better man. UCD Marian and Killester both arrived in Cork with deep benches, serious talent across the floor, and lots to offer. They also each had one guy who had the capacity to be the guy.
Royce Williams inherited one of the toughest jobs in Irish sport. He had to replace Jermaine Turner as Killester’s American. Having missed 7 games through injury, his job couldn’t have had a much rougher start. When healthy however it was impossible to miss his athleticism and fearlessness going at every job.
Mike Garrow is in his third year in this league and his second wearing a UCD jersey. Having tandemed with Dan Nelms during his first season with Swords Thunder, he had made the lone slot with Marian his own a year ago and this season was delivering MVP calibre performances.
These guys were ready to go.
The first quarter was exactly what a neutral could have hoped for. Garrow and Williams exchanged plenty of buckets early while the supporting cast on each side delivered mightily too in a fast paced opening 10 minutes. Killester were measuring their cross-city opponents. UCD wanted payback, for their loss at this stage last year and a hammering earlier in the season in league play.
The score after 10 was 25-24 for UCD but the story had been the intensity. These sides were lobbing everything at each other in a bid to see where the weak spot was. Errors on offence were wiped away with defensive hustle. Williams held the edge on Garrow in terms of scoring after the first, 7 to 5, but both were setting a hard pace.
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Early in the second Williams made a steal at mid-court, got up the floor, drew contact, and roared “And one” as the ball bobbled around the rim before eventually dropping. The free throw didn’t land and we were off to the races again.
Having sat the start of the second, with Killester going on a run in his absence, Garrow returned to the floor for UCD. After a feed from Dan James he got a lucky bounce for a three and bring his side back within 1. He returned the favour to James on a long 2 and his side was back in front on the next possession.
A long three attempt over Williams bricked before the Killester man drew a foul off Garrow up the other end. Garrow went too aggressive on Williams trying to block him and was called for another within seconds. From the line Williams was able to restore Killester’s lead.
The work just wouldn’t stop. A tip-in from Garrow on a fourth chance opportunity kept the pace up. Garrow’s total hit 12 before he sat again late in the half. It was just enough of a window for Killester to sneak in front at the break, 47-44.
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Garrow from deep to tie things up at the start of the third. Williams looks to respond. He bricks a three before Garrow intercepts an errant pass from the Killester man that leads to a Conor Meany three. UCD had been known to turn on the jets in the third quarter this season and they had gotten an ideal start in this one.
Eventually a three from Paddy Sullivan got Killester off the mark in the second half. Williams was being contained and looking for a way to drive. Garrow meanwhile was leaping out of bounds to keep a play alive before coming back to finish off the move with a step back jumper.
Meany was draining his share but Killester’s supporting cast were living with him and Garrow. The pace was farcical and eventually an offensive foul by Barry Drumm saw these sides take a break. Another Williams miss cost Killester a chance to retake the lead. Garrow responded with a jumper at the other end before foolishly giving up a technical.
That was the chance Williams needed. He got to the line to open his second half account while his opposite number sat on three fouls. Marian however held it together without their leader. Joan Jordi Vall Llobera and Neil Baynes carried the load to put UCD up 70-62 with 10 minutes to play.
Garrow returned to the floor with 7.33 to play and a 10 point lead for UCD Marian. Williams got to the line soon after. After his near silent third quarter, Killester needed their import to shine now. Still the rim frowned on him from open play.
With 5.56 to go, Killester needed ideas out of the timeout. They trailed 74-64, having mustered nothing from the field so far in the final frame. Time after time Williams tried. Time after time it bounced unkindly.
Garrow meanwhile was drawing offensive fouls and keeping the physicality coming. Williams finally got some respite when he went to the line again. Those were the only 50/50 breaks going Killester’s way. The pace and physicality was suiting the league leaders as Garrow and James were falling all over the floor to keep plays alive and make scores. Williams finally made his first field goal of the second half in garbage time. The charge of Baynes to back up Garrow’s exploits had long made the matter closed.
The 13 in yellow was triumphant. A return to the cup final for UCD Marian after a two year absence. Vengeance for the ghost’s of 2017. A chance at a first trophy for Garrow. A final line of 19 points, 7 rebounds, and 6 assists.
The day was his.
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