Playing with a swagger and purpose that was not evident in recent Connacht fixtures, BUCCANEERS overcame Belfast Harlequins 29-21 in a lively opener to this season’s Ulster Bank League Division 1B played at Deramore Park, Belfast, on Saturday. Conditions were near ideal for top of the ground rugby which suited Buccs ideally as they staged a magnificent comeback on a glorious sunny afternoon.


Buccs lined out with four AIL debutants for the club, Conor Kindregan in the backrow and Tiernan O’Halloran, Mark Abraham and Steve Macauley in the backline. Quins were a much changed squad from last season’s meetings of the two clubs with Ulster duo Neil McComb and Michael Heaney their most recognisable players.

The Pirates were quickly into their stride and Jack Carty punished an offside indiscretion with a 4th minute penalty. Luke Satchwell made a terrific break three minutes later that yielded a penalty in front of the posts that was swiftly tapped but came to nought. Although the home defence had not retreated ten metres, the referee failed to give Buccs a second opportunity while an 11th minute Carty penalty after a teasing Macauley break rebounded off an upright. A good drive by the visitors’ pack earned another penalty but Carty’s long-range effort was wide of the target so, despite dominating territorially and possession-wise, Buccaneers lead was a mere 3-0.

Buccs maintained their momentum but a final forward pass denied Macauley a try on the left. Half an hour had passed before Quins made a raid of any substance and then a solid drive by the home pack yielded a penalty which Liam Cambridge was unable to convert after 33 minutes. Four minutes from half-time, Carty made ground and Mark Dolan carried on to link up with David Heffernan who powered through for a 36th minute try wide on the left. Carty was unable to add the conversion and thus Buccs 8-0 advantage at the interval was, in truth, a poor return for their dominance.

Matters promptly took a change for the worse on the restart. Macauley tried an injudicious chip two minutes into the second half and Quins snaffled possession enabling McComb to steam through for a 42nd minute try on the left. Four minutes later, the huge lock could not believe the space he was afforded as he galloped in for a second try and, suddenly, the hosts had a spring in their collective steps. O’Halloran put in a 48th minute try-saving tackle on Cambridge who missed his second penalty soon afterwards. Alarming holes began to appear in the Buccs cover and Harry Howard popped up on the left to help himself to a 56th minute try. Cambridge converted all three touchdowns to put Quins  21-8 ahead.

But a contest that seemed to becoming a game of two halves turned dramatically again into a match of one half and two quarters! A terrific blockdown on Cambridge by Martin Staunton got Buccs back into home territory and Carty sent Alex Hayman attacking the Quins line. The Pirates captain broke from outside the 22 and showed typical power and desire to crash over for a 58th minute try.  Six minutes later, O’Halloran capped a fine contribution when he left the home defence flailing in his wake as he hared down the left for a try.

Cambridge missed a third penalty but Buccs had now regained the momentum and were utterly dominant in the closing stages when they laid siege to the home line. James Tormey and Garreth Halligan were both stopped short but Daniel Qualter was not to be denied as he burrowed through a number of Quins players to secure a bonus point try for Buccs on 71 minutes. Dolan was held up shortly afterwards but Carty converted the three second half tries to deny Quins any consolation.   

Apart from the wobbly third quarter, this was stirring stuff by Buccaneers. Every player contributed but none more than Satchwell who was outstanding at No.8. Locks Qualter and Tormey had splendid outings as did Staunton in the front row. Indeed, fears that Buccs pack might struggle proved unfounded despite looking the smaller unit. The backs mixed their attack and defence duties to good effect with the adroit O’Halloran looking the most accomplished performer in this sector. All substitutes made decent contributions on their introductions and, all in all, this was a highly promising display by what is quite a youthful side.

BELFAST HARLEQUINS:-  E.Stran; A.Pollock, M.Kettyle, W.Stewart, H.Howard; L.Cambridge, M.Heaney; M.McGrath, M.Logan, T.Fraser; S.Currie, N.McComb; K.McCombe, O.Lockhead and D.Annett (captain).  Replacements:- P.Greenaway, F.Taggart, C.Leckey, D.Marshal and J.Fullerton.


BUCCANEERS:-  T.O’Halloran; S.Macauley, M.Abraham, A.Hayman (captain), B.Henshaw; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, D.Heffernan, P.Reilly; D.Qualter, J.Tormey; S.Casey, C.Kindregan and L.Satchwell. Replacements:- R.Moloney (for Casey), S.Casey (for Qualter), G.Halligan (for Kindregan, inj), D.Higgins (for Reilly), E.O’Reilly (for Macauley, inj) and D.Qualter (for Casey).


REFEREE:-  Nigel Correll.




Despite another tonic start, Buccaneers had to give best to a more cohesive and far more experienced Co.Carlow/Carlow I.T. outfit when the teams met in the Womens All-Ireland League Division 2 Central at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday with Carlow winning 19-7.


Buccs had four changes in personnel plus a number of positional switches for the visit of the pace-setters in this division. They scored a try on 45 seconds last week and were even quicker to get off the mark on this occasion with Niamh Ni Dhroma again scampering through to touchdown after a mere 20 seconds! Colette McSpadden converted to put Buccs 7-0 ahead in little over one minute.

This gave Buccs some impetus but experienced Carlow were soon forcing the pace, aided by a diagonal breeze. Jen Ardill finished off a good spell of pressure for an 11th minute try for the visitors. Quick thinking on her own ten metre line by Ni Dhroma as she smartly tapped a penalty almost caught Carlow napping and the home fullback made considerable ground before being stopped inside the Carlow 22. However, Carlow continued to enjoy the lion’s share of territory and Susan Shirley powered through for a 33rd minute try which Elaine Ware converted for a 12-7 lead at half-time.

Buccs battled valiantly in the second period but just could not breach a well organised Carlow defence. The game remained finely in the balance until three minutes from the end when Carlow took full advantage of a Buccs knock-on in midfield. A quick chip over the cover followed by a grubber from Catriona Cassidy saw Maureen Young outpace the home defence for a try which fullback Ware converted to seal the 19-7 victory.

All the Buccaneers girls played their hearts out and should not feel too disappointed at losing to a squad that is more battle-hardened than the Athlone side, although their endeavours possibly warranted a losing bonus point.

BUCCANEERS:-  N.Ni Dhroma (captain); N.Gough, T.Kiernan, A.M.Sleator, A.Taaffe; C.McSpadden, S.Griffin; S.Kelly, L.Stuart-Trainor, E.Conlon; A.Kelleher, N.Egan; C.Mannion, A.Kemmy and E.Phelan. Replacements used:- E.O’Neill, R. Bartnikaite, A.Kenny and K.Drowney.    


CO.CARLOW/CARLOW I.T:-  E.Ware; L.Conville, N.Cahill, E.Hayden, G.Cullen; C.Cassidy, L.Kelly; E.Byrne, V.Timmons, J.Mahon; S.O’Carroll, S.Shirley; M.Young, L.Retig and J.Ardill (captain).




BUCCANEERS SECONDS salvaged a Connacht Junior 1B League draw away to Corrib on Sunday when, with the final kick of the game, David Fagan tied the scores at 16-16 in Dunmore.


On a fine afternoon, Buccs were guilty of indecision and taking wrong options in a match they were capable of winning. Lots of the play was contested among the forwards, better suited to a competitive home outfit. The midlanders would have benefited from more open play and must utilise next weekend (when they are “fixture free”) to work on structures and cohesion.

Corrib led 6-3 at halftime while Harry Hughes showed his eye for an opening with a smartly-taken try for Buccs, for whom David Fagan kicked the conversion and landed three penalties, the last one with final act of the game.

BUCCANEERS:-  G.Costello; H.Hughes, K.Naughton, S.Flynn, M.Tormey; D.Fagan, D.Griffiths (captain); L.Doran, R.Grenham, T.Thompson; S.Byrne, R.Byrne; N.Flynn, P.Maxwell and B.Fagan. Replacements:- D.Coffey (for S.Byrne), N.Purcell (for S.Flynn), L.Walsh (for N.Flynn), G.Fallon (for Tormey) and K.Grehan.




BUCCANEERS host their first home Ulster Bank League match of the season when they take on Malone in a floodlit game, sponsored by Ganlys of Athlone, on Saturday night, kick off 7.30 p.m.


Buccs got off to a flying start against another Belfast club in the opening round, overcoming Harlequins 29-21 in a lively affair. This will have boosted confidence in the Pirates’ ranks and rightly so for their play was adventurous and resilient, particularly after shipping a trio of tries following the change of ends. But Buccs regrouped and the young side played with purpose and pace to overhaul Quins. If they can reproduce that effort and enterprise, then home fans should be rewarded with decent rugby and, hopefully, a home win.

The Buccs pack met the challenge of Quins and, overall, they had greater pace and penetration in both backs and forwards. Luke Satchwell had a splendid outing as did debutant Tiernan O’Halloran. Old heads Alex Hayman, James Tormey and Garreth Halligan also made key contributions in a well-balanced performance. If the players can rule out a drop in concentration and application (such as in the third quarter up north) then they can make home advantage pay.

Malone won an all-Ulster battle at home to Dungannon with tries by Michael Barker, Mike McComish and Peter Henderson, the latter also contributing from placed balls. Connor Joyce and Alan O’Connor are exciting prospects in their pack while Josh Pentland, Lorcan McGillan, James McKinney and Taylor Acheson could be ones to watch in their backline.

It should be a fluid affair under the Dubarry Park floodlights on a pitch that is in topclass condition. So lets see a decent turnout for this Division 1B duel when Buccs will hope to build on their opening day win away in Belfast.

Pre-match tables are available for the Malone game. For €30 per person you can enjoy a 3-course dinner with wine, have a seat in the Stand and also a complimentary 96-page match programme. Phone Geraldine at 086-1732711 to book. 

BUCCANEERS U-20s commence their South-West Conference League campaign with a testing assignment away to N.U.I.G/Corinthians on Saturday. This joust at Clounacauneen kicks off at 2.30 p.m. Buccs have a youthful (even for this age group) squad and a good start would be a terrific boost for them. All three Connacht clubs have been greatly inconvenienced this season by the four Cork clubs unwillingness to travel to Connacht for fixtures in this league. Thus the Connacht sides must travel for six of their ten league matches, which is grossly disadvantageous to them. So much for encouraging rugby at grassroots levels?

BUCCANEERS WOMEN have a tough test when they travel to challenge Railway Union in the Womens All-Ireland League Division 2 Central in Dublin. This match has a 1 p.m. kick off on Sunday. This will be a step up again for Buccs but they acquitted themselves with some distinction when the sides met for the first time in last season’s Leinster Cup quarter-final. A repeat of that effort and the Buccs girls could cause an upset.

Completing a busy weekend of fixtures, BUCCANEERS THIRDS begin this season’s Connacht J2 League at home to Galwegians on Sunday. Kick off in Dubarry Park is at 2.30 p.m. They had a near-perfect season last year, capturing the Ard-Na-Cregg Cup and losing just one league game. Preparations are not so well-advanced at time of writing but there is the nucleus of a decent squad there that, if harnessed astutely, can enjoy another solid campaign.



Congrats to Athlone Town Football Club on winning the Division One championship and securing promotion to the Premier Division by a clear margin and in some style.



Deepest sympathy is extended to the family of the late Patricia Kearney (daughter of life member Sean and sister-in-law of Paddy Kenny). Condolences also to the family of Oona Linehan who passed away last week. Oona came up with the charity fund-raising idea ‘Ireland’s Biggest Coffee Morning’ among her many charitable works. She is survived by her husband Stan, who was hooker on the first Athlone RFC team to win the Connacht Senior Cup in 1955.


Volunteers are sought for ‘Bag Packing’ at Dunnes Stores, Irishtown, on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th of October. Funds raised go towards Youths rugby so players aged 16 and over can participate as well as parents/guardians of players from all underage teams. If you can do a two-hour shift, please contact relevant team manager or coach or phone the club’s administrator Geraldine at 086-1732711. All help will be greatly appreciated.          


Energia All-Ireland League Round-Up: Buccaneers stay atop Division 1B, Sligo & Corinthians win