Ending Star's trophy drought would be very special: Fulton
Twenty years on from winning the All-Ireland Superleague, Belfast Star will seek to finally, once again, bring a major piece of silverware back across the border this Sunday afternoon.
Star's fortunes have been transformed this season through a mixture of investment and fine coaching from dynamic duo Adrian Fulton and Javan Dupree - two men who inspired back-to-back Superleague titles in the late 1990s.
They were also part of the side that triumphed in the end-of-season play-offs during an era of dominance. Now they will hope to guide the current generation to the Champions Trophy, the new name for the play-offs, when Star clash with Templeogue in DCU (4pm).
In reaching the final, Star overcame ludicrous scheduling and this season's Superleague champions Tralee Warriors in their own arena. That victory came less than 24 hours after Star had gone to Dublin and defeated UCD Marian. The governing body in their 'wisdom' then made the Belfast side travel immediately to Tralee for their clash with the champions.
Having had two weeks to rest and prepare for this Sunday's final game of the season, coach Fulton is quietly confident that his men can rise to the occasion and end their major trophy famine.
"The last time we won this trophy it set us on the way to winning the Superleague for the first time so if that could be repeated it would be very special," said Fulton, whose dad Danny was the coach of Star in those glory days along with Darren O'Neill.
"I'm very proud of the way these guys have fought all the way to the end of the season and given themselves a shot at the Champions Trophy. Having led the league for half the season and missed out on the title and lost in the National Cup semi-finals, it would have been easy for heads to drop but they have shown their character by beating Marian and then Tralee to get here.
"There have been a lot of positives this year, we have seen many of the Irish lads prove they can compete at this level - their confidence has grown - and also our professionals, Mike Davis and Sergio Vidal, have been excellent and Mike Thiep has stepped up in recent weeks and given us very good minutes."
While not one for seeking to laud his son CJ from the rooftops, the former Irish international - when pushed - admits that he has been critical in Star's push for glory.
For many years Star found it almost impossible to replace Adrian after he retired and now it is his son who fills that slot with the same composure - only strength and experience are naturally missing from his game.
"At the start of the season I thought CJ could play a part but he has established himself as our No.1 point guard - prepared to play for the Under-20s side and his school one day and then the next for the senior side. It has been a great learning experience for him and I can see how much it would mean to him to help the club win this trophy.
"The great thing about this season is the buzz that we have brought back to the games. Our support has more than tripled. We've had great crowds at our home games and we now have a travelling support as well.
"A real belief has come back this year and now we just want to go and give our best and hopefully finish the season with a piece of silverware - that would be perfect and just what everyone at the club deserves because there are many hard working people in the background."