Mercy Waterford put a lot of heartbreak behind them when they won the All-Ireland A first year basketball title. Having come so close on many occasions in recent years Mercy finally got their hands on the coveted silverware. It a first for the school at this age which surprised many considering they have a healthy representation at senior level on the national stage.
Mercy travelled to U.L in Limerick to compete in this competition. The event consisted of the top 16 from the 32 countries with four pools of four teams, Mercy had Cork’s Colaistemhuire A.G. first in their pool and the Waterford outfit proved to too strong for their opponents winning easily 44-14. Caoimhe McGrath was excellent on defence allowing Adrianna Shallica and Sarah Hickey to notch up the scores at the other end. . Loreto Foxrock Dublin were next up and this was a tight game with before Mercy hit top gear through some solid defence from Rafaiti Oladiti and the scoring prowess of Illanna Fitzgerald and Hickey to finish the game as a contest. Final score Mercy Waterford 36 Loreto Foxrock 19.
The third game of the pool was a complete miss match from start to finish as Mercy through Tara Freeman and Shannon Marshall held Dublin north side team Malahide to 3 points at half time. While at the other end Hickey once again was ably assisted by Freeman and Ava Coppingear finished some lovely baskets at the other end. The final score was Mercy Waterford 38 Malahide C.S 7.
The day finished with girls from the Deise topping the pool with Loreto Foxrock in second place , both qualified for the quarter finals next day .
Ballymahon of Longford who have a good reputation in this event would be the opponents in the quarter final stage. Mercy came out of the blocks like wildfire with Chelsea Mclawerence and Leah Dunphy showing their initiative by totally dominating their opposition in the first few minutes. Mercy soon ran up a score of 15-2 after 10 minutes of play. Bronagh Higgins came into her own in this half-finishing some fine fast break moves. Freeman got the job to tackle their best player which she did with aplomb. Hickey was once again a thorn in their side finishing the a game high of 19 points
Awaiting Mercy in the semi-final were Loreto Foxrock from Dublin who Mercy had played the previous day.
Going on the previous result between the two sides Mercy were obvious favourites. However when mercy trailed 11 points to 12 at the break through some poor finishing and lack of concentration.There was concern in the Waterford camp. However the panic was short lived as the starts from the Mercy stood up to be counted and really took to game to Foxrock. They scored 12 points in the third quarter and kept their opposition scoreless. The fourth quarter started with a massive three pointer from Fitzgerald who was a shining light all weekend. This was followed up by scores from Schalli and Dunphy to finish the game off. The final score was Mercy Waterford 33 Loreto Foxrock15.
Next up was the All-Ireland final and the opposition would come in the shape of St. Louis Kiltimagh from Mayo. Both teams had just two hours to rest and prepare for gold medal honest. When the game tipped off it was the girls from the west who were first off the blocks and raced into a 12- 2 lead after four minutes through some fabulous three point shooting and fast breaks. . At the end of the first quarter there were still 10 points between the teams and things were no better at half time. The large number of Mercy supporters led by vice principal John Brennan and backed by proud parents got behind their favourites and what a response they got from their team as the raised their game to a unexpected level to comparatively take over for the rest of the game. Once again the third quarter did the damage as Dunphy and Fitzgerald shut down their main players with Hickey, Higgins and Shalllici doing the business at the other end. Mercy went into the fourth quarter winning by three points which was a 10 point turnaround. They finished out the fourth quarter with style with some fabulous outside shooting and so intricate play which mesmerised the opposition. There were scenes of joy as the final buzzer sounded with the scoreline of Mercy Waterford 33 St. Louis Kiltimagh 22.
Captain of Mercy Sarah Hickey was presented with the cup and was very fitting as Hickey was the constant talk of the stadium due to here ever consistent performances throughout the weekend. She showed great determination and leadership all the while notching up some fabulous scores that Le Bron James would have be proud of. In fact all weekend the whole team were a credit to the school and their families with their performances on the court and I am sure in years to come we will be hearing a lot more of this special group of players.
Coaches Craig O’Neill and Tommy O’Mahony deserve a special mention for their coaching time and commitment as does manager Aoife Ni Mhurchu.
There were great celebrations on Monday at tea break when school principal Mary Meade called all students and staff to the Mercy Sports Hall where the All Ireland winning team received congratulations from their principal plus a tremendous reception from their fellow students Waterford looks forward to seeing this talented group who also won the U-14 national title with wildcats a couple of weeks ago bring more silverware Suirside in the coming years.
Mercy 1st year Sqaud: Bronagh Higgins, Elle Doyle, Adrianna Shalllici, Illiana Fitzgerald, Ava Coppinger, Leah Dunphy, Rafaiti Oladiti, Caiomhne McGrath, Sarah Hickey captain, Tara Freeman, Shannon Marshall, Chelsea McLawerence