BUCCANEERS advanced to the All-Ireland U-20 quarter-finals by virtue of a hard-earned 19-7 Donal Walsh Trophy Division One play-off victory over Bruff at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday.  Buccs were that bit better overall, yet had to scrap for the spoils to the very end against a game Limerick outfit who found the Pirates in more purposeful mood on this occasion.


On a crisp, sunny evening, playing conditions were quite good apart from a diagonal easterly breeze that got much cooler as the game progressed. The on-field exchanges were such that the players hardly noticed the dip in temperature as both teams strove earnestly to get the upperhand. The visitors had first benefit of the wind but it was Buccs who set the early tempo. They forced a 13th minute penalty but Charlie McMickan’s kick fell short. However, the midlanders were promptly back on the offensive from the restart and McMickan committed his opposite number before off-loading neatly to Graham Lynch who drove over for a 16th minute try which McMickan converted.

While the play was generally energetic from both sides it was, nevertheless, somewhat disjointed and scrappy. Real chances were at a premium as both defences made their tackles although Buccs had the greater territory and possession. Four minutes from half-time, the homesters forced a penalty on half-way and McMickan drilled a fine placekick to touch close to the Bruff line on the left. Buccs secured good possession from the lineout to maul over for a 36th minute Conor Morrissey try converted by McMickan. This score had Buccaneers 14-0 to the good at the interval.

Despite now having the breeze favouring them, Buccs struggled to build momentum on the change of ends as the doughty Bruff outfit took the match to the hosts following a 47th minute sin-binning of Conor McGrath for coming in from the side. The visitors sensed an opportunity to punish the Pirates but were twice stopped on the home line in quick succession. However, they were now forcing the pace and, just after the hour mark, stretched the home defence with Brian Fanning finishing off their best period for a try on the right. A smashing James Guinan conversion reduced Bruff’s arrears to 14-7.

But Buccaneers replied swiftly to get deep into the Limerick side’s territory where they earned a five-metre scrum in a central position. Clean possession was won and Ricky Dixon scampered away in determined fashion to arc in for a smashing try on the right. Although McMickan’s conversion was off-target, this score put Buccs back in the driving seat. However, when McMickan and Sean Dempsey sandwiched Cian Tierney inside the home 22, the referee contentiously ruled that Dempsey’s tackle had been high on his opposite number and the Buccs centre was yellow-carded.  

This renewed hope in the Bruff ranks that they could salvage the outcome with their temporary numerical superiority. They piled forward but found the Pirates in unyielding mood. Evan Galvin, McGrath, Morrissey and substitute Sean Doyle all put in crucial crunch tackles as Buccs defied Bruff’s best efforts. When hooker McGrath effected a wonderful turnover that enabled McMickan to find a massive touch late in the contest, Buccs were able to play out the remaining time for a tough but truly merited 19-7 victory.

This was another spirited display by Buccaneers with skipper Galvin, that man of perpetual motion and industry, again leading by example. Fellow backrower Ross Flanagan had his best performance to date, McGrath was most effective in a hardy front row and lock Conal O’Brien also caught the eye. McMickan, Brian Gilligan and Dempsey were most prominent in the backline.      

BUCCANEERS:- C.McMickan; T.Finucane, B.Gilligan, S.Dempsey, H.Hughes; G.Lynch, R.Dixon; N.Farrelly, C.McGrath, R.O’Meara; C.O’Brien, J.Foley; R.Flanagan, E.Galvin (captain) and C.Morrissey. Replacements:- S.Doyle (for Finucane), N.Conway, P.Browne and R.Cooper.


BRUFF:- B.Fanning; L.Treacy, S.Doona, C.Tierney, J.Guinan; D.O’Grady, J.Carew; S.Breen, J.Prenderville, B.Keogh (captain); C.O’Dwyer, A.McAuliffe; R.Laffan, N.Mallon and J.Richardson. Replacements:- E.O’Dea (for O’Dwyer), K.Treacy (for McAuliffe), G.Reidy (for Carew, temp.), E.Finn (for Breen, temp.), J.Keogh, K.O’Riordan and A.Neylon.


REFEREE:- Brian Deignan (Connacht).



BUCCANEERS WOMENS team put in a rousing display to account for Sligo 30-14 in an exciting Connacht Womens Invitation Cup match in bitterly cold conditions at Dubarry Park on Saturday night.  Buccs showed tremendous character and desire to overhaul the north-westerners in a floodlit game that was wonderful to watch.


Sligo scored a converted try more or less straight from the kick off but this did not unsettle Buccs who responded swiftly with a smart unconverted try from Hazel Kilduff. Sligo’s retort was a second converted try to lead 14-5 early in the second quarter but still the Pirates ladies were not too fazed. They continued to enjoy decent possession and growing territory and, following a good spell inside the visitors’ 22, Christine Mannion surged in for another unconverted try. The growing home pressure yielded a penalty just before the break with Michelle Reynolds’ placekick leaving just the minimum between the sides at half-time, Buccs trailing 13-14.

Buccaneers forged on following the change of ends with the pack putting in some seriously good play. This led to their third unconverted try, Reynolds applying the touchdown to put the Pirates ahead. The forwards continued their excellent endeavour with the lineout work being phenomenal. Following good lineout possession, the ball was moved swiftly along the backs with substitute Rachel Jordan finishing off the move for a try converted by Reynolds to push Buccs 25-14 to the good.  The backs were heavily involved in Buccaneers fifth and final try, scored by Reynolds to complete a splendid 30-14 victory.

This was a super overall effort by Buccaneers with Kilduff, in her new role at scrumhalf, being player of the match. Tina Kiernan, Dona Cromar and Emer Phelan played out of their skins in a magnificent contribution by the pack. The squad is now noticeably improving and much gratitude in this regard must go to Niamh Ni Dhroma and Sean Byrne for their encouraging coaching.

BUCCANEERS:- M.Reynolds; N.Gough, E.O’Brien, S.Griffin, M.Devaney; C.McSpadden, H.Kilduff; T.Finnerty, C.Mannion, K.Bradley; A.Kelleher, D.Cromar; A.Kemmy, T.Kiernan and E.Phelan (captain). Replacement used:- R.Jordan (for O’Brien). 




 BUCCANEERS square up to Cork Constitution in the semi-final of the Bateman Cup at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday with a 4.30 p.m. kick off for this intriguing fixture.  Siting this game on the same afternoon as the final round of RBS Six Nations Championship matches devalues, in this writer’s opinion, this All-Ireland semi-final. But then All-Ireland club fixtures have been scheduled to clash with Six Nations and Autumn Internationals throughout the season…… and not surprisingly the club matches have been seriously losing out at the turnstiles.


So Buccs will be hoping that Ireland supporters will come to this enticing contest having watched Ireland overcome Scotland (hopefully!) on the big screens in The Bounty or elsewhere. Holders Cork Con will provide a stiff hurdle for the midlanders even though the Munster club is having a mixed season in the league with a 50/50 win ratio. That leaves them in fourth place in Division 1A but some way off the leading duo, indeed very similar to the situation in Division 1B. With the carrot of a third successive Bateman Cup triumph, the Rebels will need little incentive and they have already completed another piece of history earlier in the season by capturing their third Munster Senior Cup in a row, a feat they last achieved in 1905/07.

Cork Con have an exciting blend of youth and experience with halfbacks Tomas Quinlan and Gerry Hurley key to their ambitions. Scrumhalf Hurley is a wily operator while rookie outhalf Quinlan is a prodigious place-kicker so Buccs must simply curb their influence on the proceedings. Wingers Rob Jermyn and former Cork hurler Darren Sweetnam are highly dangerous on the counter-attack. Buccs cannot afford to fumble ball or drop their guard against this quartet or the likes of fullback Darragh Lyons. Cork Con’s pack has a fairly settled look about it with No.8 Luke Cahill consistently influential as is lock Graeme Lawlor. James Ryan, James Murphy, Gavin Duffy and Max Abbott are others who will ask plenty of questions of the hosts.

Buccaneers have been frustratingly inconsistent all through the season and the two most recent heavy losses will not inspire huge confidence. Nevertheless, Buccs are capable of so much better than those two performances but they need to play with greater cohesion, accuracy and decision making. Hopefully a decent Connacht contingent from Danny Qualter, Shane Layden, Conor Finn, David Heffernan, Mata Fifita and Shane Delahunt will be available from the province to bolster Buccs cause which could also be boosted by the return of Kolo Kiripati. In the forwards battle, Jacob Walshe, Diarmuid Higgins, Luke Satchwell, Martin Staunton and James Tormey will have to work their collective socks off so that Alan Gaughan, Callum Boland, Mark Dolan, Billy Henshaw and Eoghan O’Reilly, ably marshalled by Alex Hayman, can rise to the occasion. David Butler, Rory O’Connor, Conor FitzGibbon, Scott Flanagan and Josh O’Rourke are other young players who will be eager to pit their wits in this contest.

This is a massive challenge for Buccs and the Pirates will need to be close to their best (individually and collectively) if they are to take the booty and end Cork Con’s long Cup sequence. So let’s see a decent crowd at Dubarry Park on Saturday despite the counter attractions on the TV. Remember kick off is 4.30 p.m.




BUCCANEERS THIRDS are away to N.U.I.GALWAY in the Curley Cup on Sunday with this first round game kicking off in Dangan at 2.30 p.m.  This will be a tough hurdle for Buccs who lost both league matches to the Students. The Athlone side have been inactive for some time so Conor Galvin will be doing his utmost to marshall his troops for what could be their final salvo of the season.



BUCCANEERS WOMENS team are also in Cup action, travelling to Castlebar on Thursday night for an 8 p.m. showdown against the league winners. There was little between the sides in the league and both sides could well meet again in the Cup final. Buccs have shown improved form and organisation of late and they will be hopeful of building on that in this Connacht Womens Invitation Cup outing.



Although Ireland’s match results were truly disappointing, Buccaneers had three players – – Robbie Henshaw, Cian Romaine and Stephen McVeigh — in international action at the weekend. Congrats, guys, especially to Stephen on your first U-20 cap.



Deepest sympathy is extended to Patrick Cooney and extended family on the death of his brother Fintan (Mullingar).  Ar dheis De a anam.


Gallery: University of Galway hosts Kay Bowen Cup