Enda Walshe reports
An unbeaten start to 2023 has got Scott’s Lakers St Paul’s only slightly straining their necks at those above them as February will be a seminal month in the race for the play-offs.
Coupled with a pre-Christmas win over the Waterford Vikings, a derby double over the Killarney Cougars and a hard-fought win over SETU Carlow has the Lakers in fourth place in the Southern Conference with six wins from 12 games played.
Fr Mathews and the two Limerick sides, the Celtics and Sport Eagles, are all deadlocked on nine wins.
This weekend sees the top four face off against each other, with Fr Mathews entertaining the Celtics in Cork and Lakers travelling to the UL Arena on Saturday evening. With one of the top four guaranteed to lose ground in that Fr Mathews Arena joust, it offers Lakers the opportunity to close the gap further with a win in Limerick.
The university complex saw witness last year to a superb performance from the Killarney side as Emilian Grudov and Godwin Boahen led them to a 99-92 win. And while that particular duo has since departed, it will hold good memories for the others who played a part in the win, including Jamie O Sullivan, Senan O’Leary, Paul Clarke, Marko Bencic and Rui Saravia was his usual reliable self.
Earlier this season the Eagles soared to victory in Killarney on an 80-69 scoreline but for them the dynamic has changed slightly since. Manny Payton accepted an offer to play in Chile and has been replaced by Brendan Barry, a player with very similar attributes to Lakers’ own Jack Ferguson.
The big addition to their line up this season is, of course, imposing centre Irish international Jason Killeen so Lakers will have to be on their toes inside.
Jack Coyne, Nikola IIvkovic, Stephen King and Sammy Bah can also contribute to their scoring returns.
The Lakers head to Limerick in good spirits after last weekend’s derby triumph. Jack Ferguson is consistently excellent this season and his duel with Barry will have a big bearing on the result.
Ronan Collins was back to his usual self in the last two outings while the form of the club’s young guns, Jack O’Sullivan, Eoin Carroll and Mark Sheehan are a huge bonus this season. With Clarke, Bencic, O’Leary and Saravia having tasted victory in the arena last season, it’s hoped the feel good vibe will flow into this Saturday evening. Tip-off is 7.45pm.
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