BUCCANEERS leap-frogged Ballynahinch to the top of the Ulster Bank League Division 1B after a thrilling top of the table 24-17 victory over the northerners at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. Played in perfect conditions on a glorious sunny afternoon, Buccs had to dig really deep to take the lead for the first time with just seven minutes remaining of a hugely entertaining, fast moving contest between two youthful teams that warranted a larger attendance.

The homesters were forced to make a number of changes for this match, sponsored by Russell Brennan Keane. James Robinson was out due to an injury sustained in last week’s win at UL Bohs while Eoghan Grace’s good form resulted in his first competitive start for Connacht away to Ulster. Thus the ever-willing Benny Gilligan came in at tighthead prop with teenager Luke Satchwell elevated to openside flanker for Buccs. Ballynahinch played as selected, their notable absentee being prop Paddy McAllister who was included in the Ulster squad.

Debutant Satchwell led an early break for Buccs and possibly should have backed himself more but Ballynahinch then set the pace, encouraged by the yardage gained by Willie Faloon after a quickly tapped penalty. This set up good territory for the visitors but with James Simpson in possession a teammate came in from the side and Buccs got a relieving penalty. Respite was brief, however, before international Ian Whitten opened the Hinch account after just 14 minutes with a well taken try despite the endeavours of Callum Boland. A late tackle on John O’Brien earned Buccs a penalty just two minutes later which Jack Carty converted and the outhalf landed another penalty on 22 minutes after good Buccs pressure forced a Ballynahinch infringement. However, further enterprising play led to James Thompson touching down for the northerners second try on 28 minutes. James Lash converted both tries but Buccs, with Martin Staunton in for Gilligan and Denis Buckley switching positions in the front row, began to create chances.

Shane Layden initiated a promising attack on the half-hour but a misdirected pass spoiled this move. However, the Pirates were rewarded when Layden somehow outwitted a posse of Hinch defenders down the right flank to link up with Buckley who flighted a beautiful pass to O’Brien and the home fullback stormed in for a 33rd minute try. Carty’s conversion rebounded wide off an upright and the game continued to ebb and flow. Faloon’s rampage forward came to nought as the covering O’Brien forced the Ulster regular into a forward pass that denied Whitten a second try and then substitute Staunton made a great rob in the final move of the half to rescue Buccs for whom Layden was unlucky when his blockdown, that caught the visitors wrong-footed, was deemed a deliberate knock-on. So a first half that flew by ended with Ballynahinch 14-11 ahead.

Within a minute of the restart, however, the sides were level, Carty landing a fine penalty. The home stand-off was unlucky ten minutes later when he chipped ahead but David Nicholson did just enough to stymie him, enabling Whitten to tidy up for the Ulster outfit. New Zealander Lash was off-target with a 53rd minute penalty while Whitten and Faloon were not as influential in the second period. Buccs were now the more threatening side and O’Brien, Layden, Paul Harte and Kolo Kiripati all made telling ground. However, the momentum looked like swaying in favour of the Ulster outfit when home substitute Sean Stapleton was yellow carded  for over-vigorous rucking on the hour mark especially when Lash nosed Hinch back in front with a penalty after 67 minutes after Mark Dolan late tackled. Remarkably, Buccs fourteen men upped their efforts and levelled 17-17 through a super Carty 69th minute penalty from the left touchline.

Chances came and went at both ends of the pitch throughout but now Buccaneers were generally dominant and mainly on the front foot.  As the Pirates poured forward, Carty’s diagonal kick with seven minutes remaining looked the wrong choice but Ballynahinch fullback Nicholson spilled the ball forward, and Buccs swooped on their opportunity from the resultant scrum. They displayed superb, composed picking and driving, inching ever closer to the Hinch line before strong running wing Layden (who was frustrated to be whistled back for a knock-on award to Buccs when he had a real scoring opportunity on 62 minutes)   powered over in the right corner for an excellently-worked try, capped by a tremendous touchline conversion by Carty to seal the issue.

This was a splendid contest between two young, exciting and talented squads who both displayed some swash-buckling rugby. Putting in a wonderfully sustained team effort, Buccs maintained their endeavour that bit better throughout, but especially when they had a player in the sin bin, to justify their win and maintain their 100% record. Winger Boland won the ‘AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match’ accolade despite keen competition from Carty, David Heffernan, Kiripati and Dolan while Thompson and James Simpson were others to shine for Ballynahinch whose bonus point keeps them just one point adrift of new leaders Buccaneers.

BUCCANEERS:- J.O’Brien; S.Layden, P.Harte, A.Hayman, C.Boland; J.Carty, M.Dolan; D.Buckley, G.Halligan, B.Gilligan; M.Kearney, D.Qualter; D.Heffernan, L.Satchwell and K.Kiripati (captain). Replacements:- M.Staunton (for Gilligan, 32 mins), S.Stapleton (for Halligan, 50 mins), P.de Burca (for Satchwell, 55 mins), A.Kennedy (for Hayman, 65 mins) and C.Lavelle (for O’Brien, 65 mins). Temporary substitution:- G.Halligan (for de Burca).

BALLYNAHINCH:- D.Nicholson; S.Morrow, I.Whitten, J.Thompson, A.Ferris; J.Lash, H.McAleese; F.Lynch, N.Hanna (captain), Jonny Simpson; J.Madden, C.Napier; J.Kirk, W.Faloon and James Simpson. Replacements:- C.Stevenson (for Jonny Simpson, 47 mins), J.Graham (for Kirk, 52 mins), Jonny Simpson (for Stevenson, 74 mins) and M.McCormick (for Lash, 74 mins).

REFEREE:- Jonathan Peak. (IRFU).   


BUCCANEERS THIRDS also came from behind to forge a hard-earned 9-7 Connacht J2 League victory against Westport at Carrowholly on Sunday.

This was a keenly-contested and fairly even battle throughout, with more open passages of play than anticipated. Westport scored an early converted try but Buccs were very much in contention by halftime, when they trailed by the minimum 7-6. Darren Costello knocked over two penalties for the midlanders and then added a third late in the game to grab victory. Costello was influential throughout and debutant winger Daryl Smith emerged the hero with a mighty try-saving tackle late in this battle. Another debutant George Kenny caught the eye in the pack where substitute Tristan Couper also made a note-worthy contribution.

BUCCANEERS:-  R.Silke; S.Warren, G.Walsh, D.Costello, D.Smith; S.Flynn, T.Donohoe; D.Lennon, K.Grehan, L.Doran; P.Hynes, G.Kenny; M.Turley, G.Glynn and S.Byrne. Replacements:- B.McGrath (for Turley), T.Couper (for Lennon) and Lennon (for Grehan).


BUCCANEERS U-19s endured a frustrating trip to face Westport for this Connacht League meeting at Carrowholly on Sunday when the Mayo side held on to win by the narrowest of margins on a 21-20 scoreline.

These young Pirates were not helped by a number of “no shows” so had to realign their forces while they also had a number of good try calls not allowed. They also made life somewhat difficult for themselves with slow starts to both halves. Westport made the most of a fortuitous bounce to grab an early try which was converted and they soon added a penalty before Buccs opened their account with a try to leave the hosts 10-5 ahead at the interval. Both sides traded unconverted tries in the third quarter before a pair of home penalties put Westport in a strong position 21-10 ahead. But the midlanders reduced the margin with a penalty and then notched a converted try to set up a gripping finale but Westport hung on desperately to edge the verdict despite the best endeavours of James Donohue, Aidan Connaughton, Brian Teape and John Dooley in the pack and backs Conor Seery, Eoin O’Reilly and Ross Enraght-Moony for Buccs.

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Seery; R.McMickan, G.Costello, R.Enraght-Moony, E.O’Reilly; B.Carty, B.Digby; G.Carey, C.Hanniffy, J.Gormley; J.Dooley, E.Donnelly; J.Donohue (captain), A.Connaughton and B.Teape. Replacements:- D.Lynch, R.Browne, D.Small, M.Curley and S.Meunargia.


A converted home try early in the first half proved the decisive score when the ladies of Carrick-on-Shannon and Buccaneers went head to head in this Connacht Womens League tie played at Leitrim Gaels Community Park in Leitrim Village on Sunday.
Both squads gave it their all in a finely balanced duel but Carrick’s handling was that bit sharper while Buccs would have profited had their running been more direct on occasion. A wonderful Aoife Corry break almost yielded a late try for the Athlone club but the winger was denied by a tremendous tackle within touching distance of the home line. This set up a thrilling finish as Buccs pounded the Carrick line for the final ten minutes but the Leitrim ladies were relentless in their tackling to hold on for a 7-0 victory. Catherine Moore, Sarah Keegan, Niamh Gough, Natasha Egan and Yvonne O’Shea all caught the eye for Buccs.

BUCCANEERS:-  S.Gibson; E.Henshaw, S.Tobin, C.Mannion, N.Gough; Y.O’Shea (captain), S.Hynds; L.McLoughlin, L.Stuart-Trainor, M.Kiripati; C.Moore, N.Egan; S.Keegan, A.Kemmy and H.Hannent. Replacements:-  A.M.Sleator, E.Conlon, L.Casey, A.Corry, M.Meaney and R.Bartnikaite.


BUCCANEERS U-21s will hope to build on their promising start to the South-West Conference Section A of the National League when they entertain UL Bohemian at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday afternoon. Kick off is 2.30 p.m. for what should be a lively and skilful encounter. Buccs will be looking to backs Jim Clifford, Conor FitzGibbon, Stuart Flynn and Conor Finn to capitalise on the work of forwards such as Barry Stewart, Luke Satchwell and Brendan Fagan. With the Senior panel inactive this weekend, Jack Carty, Daniel Qualter, Callum Boland , Shane Layden and Denis Buckley could be available for this vital test and their presence would certainly make a difference.

Buccaneers Development Squad are also at home this weekend as they host a local derby against Ballinasloe in the Connacht Junior League 1B at Dubarry Park on Sunday with a 2.30 p.m. kick off. No quarter will be asked or given in this encounter which should attract a decent turnout in Athlone. Meanwhile, Buccaneers ladies are on the road again with a trip to Hamilton Park where they face Sligo in the Connacht Womens League on Sunday.

BUCCANEERS next Ulster Bank League match is away to Belfast Harlequins on Saturday, November 26th. A Supporters Bus will be organised if there is sufficient demand. Those interested in travelling on this bus should contact our Administrator Geraldine at 086-1732711 as early as possible so that size of bus required can be ascertained.

Deepest sympathy is extended to club Secretary Mark O’Reilly and family on the recent death of his brother-in-law Anthony Griffin.

Best of luck to Connacht as they commence their first ever Heineken Cup campaign away to Harlequins at The Stoop on Friday night. Some tickets are still available for the visit of Stade Toulousain to the Sportsground the following weekend.

U-14s defeat Oughterard

Buccs U-14’s played Oughterard at Dubarry Park on Sunday in the Connacht League and conditions were good for rugby. Despite having most of the possession and territory, it was only 5 nil to Buccs at halftime. The young Pirates continued to dominate with a strong team performance in the second half, playing a good brand of 15 man rugby  and ran out winners with 6 tries and a final score line of 36 nil. Jamie Milling, Rob Wilson, Alan Nagle, Barney McGinley, Daniel McGlynn & Jimmy Curley were the try scorers.

BUCCANEERS:- Robert Joyce, Darren Buckley, Warren Francis, Daniel McGlynn, Cian Morrissey, Barney McGinley, Jamie Milling, Jimmy Curley, Dermot O’Rourke, Brian Kenny, Alan Nagle, Rob Teape, Corey Reid, Rob Wilson, Colin Daly. Replacements:- Aaron Malone, Daniel Kerrigan, David Flynn, Jordon Murtagh, Oisin Mannion, Tom Cunniffe, Daniel Wheatley, Patrick McGinley, Loic Gately and Shane Seery.


Gallery: HT minis – Ballinrobe, Ballyhaunis, Corinthians and Dunmore