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Donnelly 'steps up' to the Saints

The 2011-12 Nivea For Men's SuperLeague and Nivea Women's Superleague gets underway within the next 24 hours, with defending champions 11890 Killester set for a tricky opener at home to Belfast Star, while National Cup holders UCD Marian are set to face DCU Saints.

The Women's SuperLeague has enjoyed a fantastic pre-season with 10 teams confirmed to participate next season, an improvement on the seven that were involved in the 2010/11 campaign.

Liffey Celtics (Kildare), Ulster Rockets (Belfast) and Supervalu Singleton's Brunnell (Cork) complete the line-up for this season.

Killester will open their defence of the Superleague without four key players this term. Last season's player of the year Paddy Kelly has taken a year out along with John Behan, while Issac Westbrooks and Michael Goj have joined Thunder of the Dublin Business School.

However, the departures have not done much to dampen the spirit of new head coach Darren O'Neill, who will faces his former side Belfast Star today.



Departed

Killester will also be without former head coach Mark Keenan, who surprisingly departed the club in the summer.

Keenan's services were quickly acquired by UL Eagles, who will open their title challenge against Bord Gáis Neptune, who have secured Mark Scannell as their new head coach.

Marian have sent out a serious signal of their intent by signing Kevin Foley, formerly of Ulster Elks, and American Donnie Stith, who played NCAA D1 for Tulane University and has spent the last two years lining out in Austria and Malaysia.



Optimism

A further boost for the club sees Kevin Meany return to the fold after a four-year absence.

DCU Saints will have new head coach and former player David Donnelly on the line tomorrow, as they look to dampen UCD's pre-season optimism. "I have spent the last several years working with underage teams in the club and I think the time is right for me to step up to senior level," said Donnelly.

Paul Kelleher is set for his second season in charge of UCC Demons and will open his account against Galway side Moycullen.

The signing of Shawn Atupem is sure to help Demons' claims for a first league crown since 2009. Shawn arrives at UCC Demons off the back of a great personal season, having averaged 10.8 points per game and five rebounds per game at Mount Saint Mary's University.

In the Women's SuperLeague, newcomers Liffey Celtics and Brunell clash in Leixlip, while Killester will also face debutants in the shape of Ulster Rockets.

Team Montenotte Hotel welcome back Niamh Dwyer, who was named England's top flight player of the year last term. Dwyer will mark that return against Oblate Dynamos tonight.

Tomorrow, DCU Mercy, who have signed Rebecca O'Keeffe from Tolka, face Waterford Wildcats, while holders UL are set to meet Meteors.

UL may be without star New Zealander Natalie Taylor, but have managed to keep star duo Michelle Fahy and Rachel Vanderwal.

Vanderwal has starred for Great Britain this summer in Olympic qualifiers.