BUCCANEERS U-20s continued their promising start in the Donal Walsh Trophy league when they readily disposed of Shannon 39-7 at an unseasonably balmy Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. Played in glorious conditions after the early morning fog, the game never truly got into a free-flowing rugby mode but the Pirates dominated from start to finish apart from a brief riposte by the visitors just before halftime. Buccs now top the North section of this league. 

Shannon fielded a depleted side and, consequently, Buccs were often complacent and casual in their endeavours. While they accrued another bonus point in this victory, the midlanders need to be more clinical and precise in their efforts as they will face stiffer tests in this section. They made two changes from their opening round win over Galwegians with Evan Galvin and Conor Morrissey slotting in to the back row.

The Athlone side set the pace from the start but it took them until the 16th minute to unlock a stubborn Shannon defence. Skipper Galvin won lineout ball on the right and Ricky Dixon made a quick break before swift hands got possession to Brian Gilligan who surged over for an unconverted try. Four minutes later, Shannon did not deal with an angled Graham Lynch kick and Galvin swooped for a soft try which Charlie McMickan converted. Outhalf Lynch got the score of the game on 27 minutes with a splendid arcing run from halfway for a superb solo try to put Buccaneers 17-0 ahead.

The advantage should have been even greater as sloppy play, poor decisions and some selfishness meant that opportunities were spurned. Meanwhile, Shannon gained some reward for their spirited efforts when James O’Halloran drove over for a try on the left and Noel Malone’s fine conversion with the final kick of the half left the Limerick lads trailing 17-7 at half-time.

McMickan edged the homesters further ahead with a penalty four minutes after the change of ends. Shannon had realigned their forces and did better until a wayward clearance was fastened onto by Harry Hughes near halfway and there was just no stopping the Caulry flyer as he sped in for a 50th minute try on the left to secure the bonus point. Seven minutes later, Sean Dempsey displayed desire and strength to get over in the opposite corner. McMickan added two splendid conversions to stretch Buccs advantage to 34-7.

Just after the hour mark, inventive lineout combination between Conor McGrath and James Foley saw the No.8 thunder forward before delivering the sweetest of off-loads to the hooker, enabling McGrath to bulldoze over in the left corner for a smartly-worked try to complete the scoring.

Buccs were full value for this comfortable victory but over-elaboration and lack of focus will cost them against stronger opposition. It is a big step-up for quite a number of their squad and the side is still very much a work in progress. But there is natural talent and potential in the panel that can be honed on the training paddock and in forthcoming matches. Galvin, Conor Kenny and Ryan O’Meara did well in the pack while standoff Lynch continues to impress in the backline where Sean Doyle and McMickan were prominent. No.8 O’Halloran was Shannon’s most defiant operator. Meanwhile, all at Buccaneers wish Shannon’s Rhys Joyce a swift and full recovery from the injury he sustained late in the game.

BUCCANEERS:-  C.McMickan; S.Dempsey, S.Doyle, B.Gilligan, H.Hughes; G.Lynch, R.Dixon; C.Walsh, C.McGrath, R.O’Meara; C.O’Brien, R.Flanagan; C.Morrissey, E.Galvin (captain) and J.Foley. Replacements:- C.Kenny (for Walsh), D.Blackweir (for Flanagan), C.O’Donnell (for Dixon), S.Gallagher, N.Conway and S.Chiatsu.


SHANNON:-  S.Fitzgerald; R.Joyce, D.Collins (captain), N.Malone, G.O’Shea; J.Elliott, N.Malone; D.O’Connell, D.Cadogan, C.Humphreys; F.Bradshaw-Ryan, Jack O’Halloran; R.O’Sullivan-Glynn, P.Obande and James O’Halloran. Replacements:- J.Walshe, R.Price, K.Browne, G.Farrell and W.Leonard.  


Referee:- Daithi Flood (Connacht).





BUCCANEERS SECONDS maintain their position on top of the Connacht Junior 1B League following a hard-earned 20-13 victory over Ballinrobe at The Racecourse, Ballinrobe, on Sunday.


Although Buccs got off to a flying start, they did not translate possession and territory into scores before Ballinrobe opened the scoring with a penalty. The midlanders responded well and soon Ger Walsh was scoring a well-taken try. David Fagan was unable to convert and then missed a penalty before the hosts regained the lead with a second penalty midway through the first half. This spurred Buccs on and they retorted with a fine Brian Walsh try that was quickly followed by a terrific individual Fagan touchdown that put the Pirates 15-6 ahead at half-time.

Buccs notched their fourth try to secure a bonus point in the third quarter with Darragh Lennon finishing off terrific team work for a stylish try, again unconverted. Ballinrobe grabbed a late converted try to put some pressure on the visitors but Buccaneers’ defence was not found wanting in the closing stages. The bonus point secured edges Buccs just a little bit further ahead in the league table.


BUCCANEERS:-  D.Byrne; G.Walsh, B.Walsh, S.Flynn, J.Lopez; D.Fagan, D.Griffiths; K.Grehan, S.Flanagan, D.Lennon; R.Byrne, S.Byrne (captain); N.Flynn, R.Enraght-Moony and S.McCormack. Replacements:- K.Langdon, J.O’Donoghue, P.Hennessy and G.Fallon.





BUCCANEERS WOMENS team made a winning start to their competitive season when they defeated Tuam 20-7 in the first round of the Connacht Womens Development League played under floodlights in Tuam on Friday night.


In damp, foggy conditions, the Buccs girls made the perfect start, putting Tuam under immediate pressure and after just 3 minutes Aislinn Kelleher burst over for a try converted by Michelle Reynolds. Both sides showed decent skills and tremendous determination but Buccs continued to force the pace. With Tuam on the backfoot on their own ten metre line, a well-delivered ball from a scrum by Sandra Griffin to her backline sent Mairead Devaney in for a 17th minute try.

The discipline and patience of the Buccettes’ forwards paid dividends securing a penalty inside the home 22 and Reynolds made no mistake in adding three points. An injury to a Tuam prop resulted in uncontested scrums, to the disadvantage of the Athlone girls who were dominant in this facet and their lead remained 15-0 until half-time.

Tuam’s never-say-die attitude was evident from the restart as well as a change in their plan of attack. They now forced Buccs back and, following a close-in penalty, Marian Sheridan drove over for a 50th minute try converted by Petrina Devery. Buccs regrouped and heeded this warning not to switch off and fine work by their backs helped them regain the momentum to peg Tuam back into the home 22. Following super delivery from a lineout, Buccs charged forward and, after a ruck on the right-hand side, Emer Phelan made a strong angled run before popping a perfect pass to Sarah Kelly who was charging at pace. The hooker straight-lined across to score a try in a move that the Seniors would have been proud of.

Now 20-7 ahead, Buccs utilised the opportunity to give game-time to their ‘newbies’ on the bench. Some of these girls were getting their first taste of Connacht league rugby and, with the introduction of new blood, Buccs strove on in search of a bonus point try. They looked to have secured that score when debutant Fabienne Cooney broke free just inside the Tuam half and showed great pace down the flank but the fullback’s effort was ruled out as she was deemed to have stepped into touch.

All in all, this was a highly encouraging start by Buccaneers with all players acquitting themselves with promise and commitment.       


BUCCANEERS:- F.Cooney; N.Gough, M.Devaney, M.Reynolds, K.Henshaw; E.Connellan, S.Griffin; K.Hynes, S.Kelly, C.Mannion; L.Stuart-Trainor, N.Egan; A.Kemmy, A.Kelleher and E.Phelan (captain). Replacements:- K.Bradley, D.Cromar, G.Goldrick and E.Cahill.





BUCCANEERS THIRDS came tantalisingly close to overcoming Dunmore when the sides met in the Connacht Junior 1C League at sunny and warm Dubarry Park on Sunday. However, the visitors held out to win by the minimum 8-7 after a tough battle.


The opening half was as poor an effort at rugby as this scribe has witnessed in a long time with large swathes of the play confined between the ten-metre lines. Half an hour had passed before either side got into scoring territory and this first chance fell to the westerners. They got away with a blatant foot in touch in the lead up to earning a fortuitous lineout on the left. But they made the most of it to drive over for a 33rd minute try in the corner which gave them a 5-0 half-time advantage despite a couple of late flurries from the hosts.

Dunmore struck for the decisive score within two minutes of the change of ends, a very tidy drop goal pushing them 8-0 ahead. Dunmore then missed a kickable penalty but perhaps justice was done in this instance as the ball had clearly been out and playable when a home flanker was whistled back. Buccs had been ponderous and cumbersome up to this point but suddenly began to play with some urgency and energy and they also sorted out their lineout problems. A few carries by Martin Lyons roused them and, with Jack O’Connor and Nick Purcell now sniping more effectively, the Pirates made good ground and Brian Campbell finished off a fine attack for a 48th minute try which Glen Costello converted to leave just a point between the sides.

With both teams wearing similarly coloured attire, a lot of slowing ball went unpunished to the greater benefit of the visitors. The referee took too long to deal with this but then produced four yellow cards, two to each team in the final quarter. Nevertheless, the match continued in a messy vein and, with Buccs not playing cutely or dynamically enough, Dunmore held on for a precious win.


BUCCANEERS:- B.Pears; M.O’Daly, M.Bannon, J.O’Connor, J.Shaughnessy; G.Costello, N.Purcell (captain); P.Rikadze, M.Lyons, B.Campbell; Anthony Hughes, M.Curley; C.Galvin, T.Couper and Adrian Hughes. Replacements:- Alan Hughes (for Rikadze), M.Duddy (for Curley), C.Shanley (for Couper, inj.), M.Tormey (for Alan Hughes, inj.), R.Silke and L.Didebashvili.




BUCCANEERS entertain Sligo in the Connacht Senior Cup Semi-final at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday, kick off scheduled for 2.30 p.m. On paper, Buccs should advance to the decider as the north-westerners shipped 50-0 defeats here in their two recent league visits. However, Sligo will be buoyed by their win over Division 2B leaders Tullamore last week and will travel with renewed hope.


Buccs, meanwhile, will be endeavouring to recover from ‘throwing away a win’ last time out when Galwegians snatched victory from the Pirates in dramatic circumstances. Although the midlanders claimed notable scalps in overcoming both Garryowen and Shannon recently, they faded worryingly in the final stages of both wins and indeed a similar slippage cost them dearly against Wegians. Hopefully, Buccs have utilised the interim to work on fitness and rectify this area. With Connacht in both European and British & Irish Cup action, it is unlikely that Buccs will have any of their contracted players so the duel with Sligo is likely to be a lot closer on this occasion. If the Pirates drop their guard, they could suffer but with another Connacht derby in the All-Ireland League looming, the home players should not lack motivation for this Cup test.


BUCCANEERS U-20s are also in action on Saturday when they travel to take on Nenagh Ormonde in the third series of Donal Walsh Trophy fixtures at Ormonde Park, kick off 2.30 p.m. when the John McCormack Cup may also be at stake.


This young Buccs outfit have made the perfect start in this league with a pair of bonus point home victories. However, Nenagh are unlikely to be as accommodating on their own patch so Buccs will need to be better focussed and disciplined on this occasion. They have the wherewithal to prevail and, if they eliminate the errors of last week, then they can continue on their winning way.

BUCCANEERS SECONDS play Tuam in the Connacht Junior 1B League on Sunday when home advantage at Dubarry Park should ensure that the Pirates retain leadership of this league. Owen O’Reilly is unlikely to allow his charges drop their tempo or focus when the action gets under way at 2.30 p.m.

BUCCANEERS THIRDS are on the road north-west to tackle Ballina in the Connacht Junior 1C League at Heffernan Park on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. Already this is a basement battle and Buccs have been getting nearer an elusive victory. This is a match they simply must win but they will need to display greater enterprise and urgency than that shown against Dunmore.

BUCCANEERS WOMEN got off to a winning start on their return to Connacht League rugby and, on Sunday, they entertain Castlebar in the second series of fixtures at Dubarry Park, with a likely kick off time of 2.30 p.m. Buccs new girls will have benefited from the game at Tuam and home comforts could prove the difference between these sides.







The Jes reach last four with last minute winner