A SUPERB SECOND HALF performance by Buccaneers yielded a clearcut 35-8 bonus point victory over Bruff in an exciting Ulster Bank League Division 1B encounter at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. In cold but otherwise ideal conditions, Buccs overcame a lengthy lay-off, a couple of late defections and an in-form outfit making their first visit to the Athlone stadium to maintain second position (with a game in hand) in the league table.

With Daniel Qualter not available due to his Ireland U-20 commitments and James Tormey ruled out through injursy sustained in the midweek warm-up against Ireland U-20’s, Buccaneers had only one fit second row available. Hence, an S.O.S. to Clifford Richardson to return to active service where he linked up with Padraig de Burca at lock. Shane Monahan resumed on the wing in place of Conor Lavelle, who was carrying an injury, while just prior to the game Alex Hayman slotted in in place of Aidan Wynne who had become ill. Bruff, meanwhile, fielded without inspiring hooker and captain Cathal O’Regan, who was injured in training for this Russell Brennan Keane sponsored fixture.

The midlanders’ mentors and supporters were somewhat apprehensive about this joust primarily as the Pirates had had no match since Halloween but, after a nervous start, Buccs gradually moved up the gears to record an emphatic win. In fairness, the final margin did not do justice to Bruff, who played their part in a competitive and entertaining contest between two sides with contrasting styles and who played in the right spirit of the game. Nevertheless, Buccs always looked the more likely to score, especially when moving the ball swiftly, and they were awesome in the final quarter at a stage when some felt that the match-hardened Limerick club might enjoy an edge in match fitness.

Bruff had decent spells of possession throughout, particularly in the opening quarter, yet they trailed 10-5 by the end of it. Buccs had to withstand early pressure but their tackling and commitment never wavered. They opened the scoring with an Adam Kennedy penalty earned in their first real attack. Almost immediately, Kennedy did very well to tidy up at the opposite end after both John O’Brien and Jack Carty failed to find touch and he sent Alex Hayman scampering down the left flank where he linked up with Garrett Halligan. The home captain had the composure and skill to angle a grubber ahead and win the race to touchdown for a 13th minute try which Kennedy converted.

Hayman put in try-saving tackle on Brian Cahill before Bruff’s much-vaunted pack then displayed their capabilities. Having opted to tap a penalty to touch in the right corner, they duly won possession from the lineout  to maul over for a 19th minute Dermot Murnane try. Brian Cahill failed to convert and then traded penalty misses with Kennedy before Paul Harte, Boland and Harte again displayed deft handling to send O’Brien over the visitors’ line but referee Alain Rolland ruled the final pass forward. Just before half-time, Buccs ill-advisedly tried to run the ball out of their danger zone and were caught in possession, coughing up a needless penalty that Brian Cahill converted to leave the game finely balanced 10-8 at the interval.

However, Buccs came roaring out of the blocks on the restart and some smashing interplay saw Kolo Kiripati diving over the Bruff line but a touch-judge rightly signalled the final pass forward, thus sparing the World Cup final referee’s blushes! Carty dropped a smart goal and Kennedy added a penalty to put Buccs double scores ahead on 47 minutes as they continued to probe for tries but, at the hour mark, it was still a tight 16-8 advantage to the homesters. Bruff substitute Tom O’Callaghan then lost possession and a golden opportunity after getting past Carty before Harte was stopped by Eoghan Cahill tantalisingly close to the Bruff line soon afterwards when Buccs displayed that they too could pick and go effectively.

However, Buccs now turned on the style and pushed on in memorable fashion. Hayman opened the floodgates with some neat footwork on his own 22 to send Stephen Burke thundering straight as only he can and the wing forward off-loaded to Kiripati who powered in for a 61st minute try on the left. Eight minutes later, Buccs successfully defended a five-metre scrum and Kiripati charged out of his danger area and the supporting Burke again rampaged through the Bruff ranks to set up a try which O’Brien finished with aplomb. Kennedy, who was off-target with an ambitious drop goal attempt, made no mistake converting both tries and suddenly Buccs were 30-8 to the good.

Further pulsating Buccs play brought them close to the visitors’ line where they snaffled possession from a Bruff put in and Conor Higgins drove over for the bonus fourth try on 71 minutes. Typically Bruff bravely rallied in the closing moments and Buccs had both Monahan and Carty yellow-carded as their defence was stretched but not breached despite being short fullback O’Brien who was being treated for an injury.

Buccaneers backrow trio were the fulcrum of this crucial victory with Burke shading Kiripati for the ‘Athlone Springs Hotel Man of the Match’ accolade. Richardson, who had just a single training session with his teammates, was immense as the home pack stood up to everything that the Bruff pack threw at them. Monahan stood out in the backline where Harte always made ground. O’Brien was classy at fullback and Kennedy made a key contribution too in a splendid, all-round team performance. Bruff really made a game of it up to the hour mark when they seemed to run out of steam but, despite the probings of Brendan Deady, they lacked the cutting edge of the hosts.

Now roll on leaders Clontarf to Dubarry Park on Saturday!

BUCCANEERS:-  J.O’Brien; C.Boland, P.Harte, A.Hayman, S.Monahan; J.Carty, A.Kennedy; M.Staunton, G.Halligan (captain), C.Higgins; C.Richardson, P. de Burca; S.Burke, C.Watters and K.Kiripati. Replacements:- A.Wynne (for Hayman, 63 mins), M.Madden (for Burke, 72 mins), Adrian Hughes (for Kiripati, 72 mins), C.Lavelle (for Monahan, 72 mins) and D.Henshaw (for Staunton, 72 mins).

BRUFF:-  B.Deady;  N.Riordan, B.Cahill, E.Cahill, A.Cashman; T.Cahill (captain), E.Maher; D.Horan, M.O’Donnell, G.Ryan; M.O’Connell, D.Murnane; A.Bourke, J.Shine and P.Malone. Replacements:- T.O’Callaghan (for Riordan, inj. h/t), M.Carroll (for Bourke, 53 mins) and J.Carroll (for E.Cahill, 63 mins).

REFEREE:-  A.Rolland. (IRFU).  


With three of their front players involved in the Senior squad as well as Daniel Qualter absent with Ireland U-20’s, Buccaneers U-21’s put in a mighty effort to overcome Highfield 16-12 in a very competitive South-West Conference National League encounter at Dubarry Park on Saturday.

These young Buccs were not fazed by ‘no shows’ from one of their back row forwards and also the appointed referee as they made a strong start to this second phase series in the league. Their scrum was solid early on and their lineouts were working well whilst promising breaks from midfield were spoiled only by the last pass on a number of occasions as they took this game by the scruff of the neck. Two Jarrod Bennett penalties put Buccaneers 6-0 ahead but the Cork side led 6-7 at halftime when they snaffled a soft converted try just before the break.

This took some of the steam out of Buccs endeavours for awhile and Highfield came more into the game which now lacked flow and was turning scrappy. Bennett regained the lead for the Athlone club with his third penalty but Highfield responded and their improved scrum saw them go through some phases before a prop drove over for a try to edge them ahead in the final quarter. But this Buccs outfit is made of stern stuff and they rallied but were most unfortunate when Bennett looked like tying the match only for his penalty kick to rebound wide off an upright with time running out. But the midlanders refused to wilt and Bennett stood up to the challenge with his exquisite diagonal kick giving Conal Gormley the opportunity to make a lovely break for the decisive try. Bennett added the conversion at the second attempt and Buccaneers withstood fierce Highfield pressure in the closing moments to hang on for a tight but richly deserved 16-12 victory.

The pack put in a very good showing particularly in the first half with Liam Doran standing out in the absence of David Henshaw. Enda O’Brien’s throwing was greatly improved while late call-up Brendan Fagan, although playing out of position at No. 8, put in a terrific shift. Jonathan Clarke overcame illness to have a splendid input while John Hayes as always was involved in nearly everything in the pack. Young Barry Digby continues to blossom at scrumhalf while outhalf Bennett continues to get nearer the form he is capable of in a ‘Man of the Match’ contribution. 

BUCCANEERS:-  K.Naughton; G.Fallon, P.Butler, C.Gormley, C.Greene; J.Bennett, B.Digby; L.Doran, E.O’Brien, T.Thompson; R.Byrne, J.Clarke; B.Stewart, J.Hayes (captain) and B.Fagan. Replacements used:- D.Higgins (for Thompson, inj.) and R.Reid (for Stewart).


BUCCANEERS THIRDS came out on top after a dogged battle on the side pitch at Heffernan Park where they overcame Ballina 8-3 in their Connacht Junior League Division 2A clash on Sunday.

With no match under their belt for quite some time, Buccaneers were understandably rusty on a bitter cold afternoon when hypothermia was the greatest danger to the wingers and the Pirates did not help their cause by incurring three yellow cards to the homesters’ solitary sin-binning. However, Michael O’Regan was outstanding in a hard-working pack and Michael Donohoe generally controlled play, especially when kicking out of hand. Keith O’Neill too made effective use of the boot while Dominic Griffith was sound in the centre. Sean Byrne’s try gave the midlanders a narrow 5-3 halftime advantage with Donohoe landing the only score of the second half from a penalty to seal a narrow, hard-earned victory that keeps this Buccs squad at the right end of the league rankings.

BUCCANEERS:-  K.O’Neill; R.Silke, D.Griffith, P.Byrne, A.Roche; M.Donohoe, K.Turley; B.Moore, Alan Hughes, K.Grehan; R.Byrne, T.Couper; M.O’Regan, S.Woods and S.Byrne. Replacements:- G.Glynn (for Couper), E. de Burca (for Moore) and S.Coyle (for Silke). 


BUCCANEERS square up to leaders Clontarf in a mouth-watering top of the table Ulster Bank League Division 1B battle at Dubarry Park on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. It’s incredible that the IRFU have slotted club games in direct competition to Ireland’s opening RBS Six Nations Championship match! Equally disappointing was Clontarf’s unwillingness to change kick off time in Athlone.

However, the game goes ahead as scheduled and it is a really big one for both clubs. Clontarf are the only side to defeat Buccs to date when they prevailed 25-15 in a tough, exciting encounter at Castle Avenue. After Tarf had got an early grip on proceedings, Buccs rallied strongly to take the lead in the third quarter but the Dubliners fought back to take the spoils, although the midlanders should at least have earned a losing bonus point after a sometimes tempestuous affair. A very late tackle on Jarrod Bennett that left the highly promising Buccs stand-off out cold and concussed left a sour aftermath to a fairly competitive contest. Young Bennett has yet to regain the form he was showing at that stage of the season and indeed has not regained his berth on the team such was the effect of this incident on him.

Clontarf have a hardness that must be matched by Buccaneers. Forwards Niall Treston, Aaron Dundon and Ben Gissing  typify their style but they have a hugely exciting flanker in Barry O’Mahoney. Simon Crawford and Ross McAuley also offer a physical presence in their pack but they have some decent exciting players in their backline. Centre Evan Ryan, outhalf Noel Reid and either Paul O’Donohue or Sam Cronin at scrumhalf have bags of talent while fullback Darragh O’Shea has poise and composure.

However, Buccs showed that they have the dynamism and pace that can make life difficult for the northsiders and if the Pirates pack produce the collective goods on Saturday, then fans should be in for a compelling encounter. Kolo Kiripati, Stephen Burke and Colin Watters were in vintage form last weekend and this is the type of game that last week’s man of the match Burke revels in. Garrett Halligan can lead in the front row where Conor Higgins and Martin Staunton are coming on in leaps and bounds. A fit Dylan Rogers will be a decided option here if introduced. Clifford Richardson has the ideal presence for games such as this while Padraig de Burca’s mobility can be crucial in the forwards battle. In the backline, Shane Monahan, Aidan Wynne, John O’Brien and Paul Harte have what it takes to make telling breaks while rookie halfbacks Adam Kennedy and Jack Carty have displayed steady nerves in the heat of battle to date. Alex Hayman too could thrive in the cauldron that Dubarry Park is likely to be on Saturday. Add Brian Touhy and Conor Lavelle to the mix and Buccs have the backs to match the best at this level.

Composure, workrate, discipline and cohesive support play will be the vital ingredients for this joust. It should be an absolute cracker between the top two consistent teams in Division 1B and it is worthy of a big attendance despite the counter-attraction of TV rugby. So let’s see hordes of Pirates making their presence felt in support of Buccaneers in what could be the pivotal match of the season.

Other Fixtures

BUCCANEERS U-21’s make the long trip to the Mardyke in Cork where they face U.C.C. in the next round of the South-West Conference of the National League. These young Buccs made a promising start when defeating Highfield and, hopefully, they will have a couple of “returnees” to bolster their ambitions on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m.
The Development Squad have been favoured with home advantage in the opening round of the Heineken Connacht Junior Cup campaign when they tackle old rivals Galwegians at Dubarry Park on Sunday, kick off 3 p.m. This Buccs outfit have been going very well in the league but, of course, Cup rugby is a different kettle of fish so the midlanders will need to maintain focus and application if they are to progress to the next round.
The Thirds continue their Connacht Junior League Division 2A campaign with a home fixture against Sligo, scheduled for Dubarry Park on Sunday, kick off 3 p.m. Buccs can win this game too but they will need to improve their discipline from last week! However, we’ll put that down to “ring rustiness” and anticipate that they will come up with the desired response.

IRELAND U-20’s match in Athlone next week

Through the generous support of ESB ELECTRIC IRELAND, IRELAND’S U-20 Six Nations Championship home matches are being staged again at Dubarry Park, beginning with the visit of France to Athlone on Friday week, February 11th. Tickets are now on sale at The Bounty for both this game and the match against England on St. Patrick’s weekend. Tickets can also be purchased at Musicworld, Golden Island Shopping Centre. Pre-match tables for both matches can be booked by contacting our Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711. Table for eight persons costs just €400 or special price of €750 if booking for both games. This subscription covers 3-course meal with complimentary wine, reserved seat in the Stand, and a pass to the Lower Deck Bar for you and your guests post match. It is a terrific night out for business or social entertaining, and bookings are welcome from groups of friends if they wish to make up a table.


Good Luck to Daniel Qualter and the Ireland U-20 squad who kick off the defence of their Six Nations title away to Italy on Friday. Best wishes too to Sean Cronin and (for the first time) Michael McCarthy, who are both in the Ireland Senior panel, and also to Keith Matthews who is in the Ireland A squad.


Congrats to Joe & Audrey Cleary on the arrival of their third son. Best wishes too to club trustee Dick Quirke and his wife Doreen who celebrate their Golden Wedding anniversary this week.


Deepest sympathy is extended to Tony Kilmartin and family on the recent death of his brother Noel.


Mini rugby in focus: Buccaneers RFC