RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

BUCCS ‘MUST WIN’ HOME GAME TO BALLYNAHINCH

BUCCANEERS face AIB Cup holders Ballynahinch for the first time at home in Dubarry Park, Athlone, when the sides clash in a crunch AIB League Division 1B encounter kicking off at 2.30 p.m. Even though the season has not yet reached the halfway stage, this a game that both clubs absolutely must win.

Ballynahinch had a dream season last year culminating in promotion for the first time ever to Division One. They won all round them in Ulster too as well as enjoying a memorable AIB Cup campaign that saw them defeat league champions Shannon away from home, overcome fancied Garryowen up north and then crowning it all with a tremendous and totally merited triumph over hot favourites Cork Constitution in the final here in Athlone. That was a superb all-round performance in front of hordes of “Hinch on tour” supporters.

However, last season’s success comes at a price. Other clubs are now not underestimating the Co. Down side whilst the performances of Ireland U-20 props Paddy McAllister and Davy McGregor has seen them more involved with Ulster this season with flanker Willie Faloon also getting more game time with the province. Their form has dipped, yet they were decidedly unfortunate when losing their grip on the Cup at the first hurdle against last season’s runners-up Con. They have also suffered narrow losses to Ballymena and Dungannon so are not, perhaps, too far off the mark although they prop up Division 1B at the moment. Their only win to date was a gritty victory over Galwegians.

Outhalf Ryan Bambry has been their saviour many a time but he is also, frustratingly, an inconsistent placekicker. Indeed, his Cup final performance maybe mirrored his endeavours, missing efforts early on that would have given Ballynahinch a comfortable platform but he came good when it mattered to seal a sweet and memorable success. He is also quite pacey and Buccs cannot afford to give him or influential scrumhalf Harry McAleese too much time or space. Fullback Jonny Cullen is another adroit runner but injury rules out exciting wing Aaron Ferris with Nevin Spence his likely replacement. Hinch’s pack was cohesive and superbly well-drilled last season with skipper Stuart Lamb driving his side on at No. 8. Lock John Gunson and flanker Michael Graham are two key forwards in a pack that will miss the influence of injured Chris Napier but the Ulster side may be able to call on second rower Ed Donoghue, formerly of this parish who is now an Ulster regular.

Ballynahinch were in action last weekend when they gained revenge at Dungannon in the Ulster league while Buccaneers have had no match since their trip to Stevenson Park. Buccs fielded a quite depleted side that day due to injuries and the unavailability of Connacht contracted players. Alex Hayman and Adam Kennedy joined the injury list in that outing but mentors are hoping that they along with Paul Harte, J.H. Potgeiter and John O’Brien will all be fit to return to the fray for this vital tie.
The midlanders pack should be along expected lines with the strength and experience of Colm Rigney, Garreth Halligan and Stephen Burke to bring the best out of Conor Higgins, Martin Staunton and Co.

Neither side can afford to lose further ground on the other clubs so this promises to be a real hell of a battle that is likely to be tight and, in boxing parlance, go the distance. Consequently, Buccs must maintain commitment, shape and discipline to the bitter end in this their final home league game of the year. Hopefully, the Pirates endeavours will provide some early Christmas cheer in this Tubbercurry Engineering sponsored match.

Other fixtures

BUCCANEERS U-21’s have a lengthy trip to Waterford on Saturday for a South-West Conference National League game away to Waterpark, kick off 2.30 p.m. Due to the weather, this Buccs side has been inactive too for some weeks, their game at home to Galwegians not going ahead. Away fixtures are always difficult assignments but if David Fagan, Colin Draper, Keelan Headd, David Henshaw and Paul Robinson play to their potential, then the midlanders can forge their first win of the current campaign.

The Reserves get a quick opportunity to recover from their league drubbing at Castlebar when they head west to tackle U.C.G. in the preliminary round of the Heineken Connacht Junior Cup at Dangan on Sunday, kick off 2.30 p.m. The Thirds, meanwhile, are home to Monivea Seconds in the Connacht J2 League with a scheduled Sunday kick off at 2.30 p.m.

WIN A 2010 CAR FOR ONLY €10!

Contrary to what some members may believe club finances are pretty stretched at present. There seems to be a perception that, for example, rental income and sponsorship can cover all corners of the club’s activities, which is patently not the case. A huge number of teams are now regularly being fielded, up to 18 at all various ages and levels, which is a huge drain on resources, primarily financial. Transport, despite notable efforts to collect contributions re buses, is a significant outlay, week after week. Grounds and pitch facilities too are a substantial but necessary burden as are training costs, e.g. hot water and flood-lighting. All the foregoing items cost a mint, even allowing for the sterling voluntary efforts by so many coaches, mentors and members in general.

Yet expenses continue to outstrip income and thus the club is undertaking a CAR RAFFLE to generate much-needed revenue. The prize is a brand new 2010 Renault and it could be yours for just 10 Euro! The Draw will take place at a home game in February. Sean White of Athlone Renault is supplying not one but two cars for display purposes to promote this extremely desirable prize, with one car being displayed at Athlone Towncentre and the other at Golden Island Shopping Centre. Here the club needs your support on two fronts. Volunteers are needed to staff ticket sales at both outlets primarily Thursdays to Sundays in the run-up to Christmas and the New Year. Not perhaps the ideal time to be calling on you for this but, if everyone can spare a couple of hours per stint, then a Rota can be drawn up to facilitate all. Volunteers are asked to text their availability and preferred day/time to Geraldine at 086-1732711 as soon as possible. Secondly, of course, the club needs buyers for the tickets and, with all hands on deck, this Raffle can be a real winner.  The club thanks you in anticipation of your support.

Tickets are priced at just €10 each or, even better value, 3 for €20 — and they could be the perfect Christmas gift! 

SOCIAL EVENTS

Of course, mention of Christmas is the ideal lead in to our Ladies Christmas Party which takes place in The Bounty on this Friday, December 5th, starting with a mulled wine reception at 8 p.m. Keeping in the tradition of this event, players are called on to be waiters on the night. Santa will make an appearance as will Terry Benson who is providing the entertainment. RSVP to Geraldine at 086-1732711.

Meanwhile, the club Christmas Party takes place on Monday, December 21st. With Tony Henshaw and friends organising this event in their own inimitable manner, a good night and loads of seasonal craic is assured. Tickets can be purchased at The Bounty or from any member of the Social sub-committee.

The traditional St.Stephen’s Night function is also being revived with music by the Fabulous Bonker Boys followed by a DJ. Further details in due course.

REFEREES COURSE

Two courses take place in the club over the coming days. A ‘Childcare Course’ is scheduled in Dubarry Park on this Thursday, December 3rd from 6.30 p.m. This is particularly relevant to all coaches and mentors of underage teams. Persons interested in attending should contact John Sheridan at 087-9823140 urgently. This is an important session which is being facilitated at our own club premises, so a decent turnout is essential on Thursday.

The same applies to a ‘Referees Course’ which is being held in the club on Monday night, December 7th from 7.30 p.m. Again this course should be of key assistance to coaches and mentors particularly at Youths and Minis grades but coaches to adult teams are also welcome to attend. The staging of this course at the club should make it very convenient for our members to attend. Persons attending should contact John Sheridan again or our Administrator Geraldine at 086-1732711 no later than Monday morning to confirm.   

CONGRATULATIONS

Congratulations to coach Neal Culliton and his wife Edel on the birth of their son Bill.

Sean Cronin may not have tasted action in Ireland’s splendid victory over South Africa but, nevertheless, Buccaneers supporters had a real interest on the playing front with giant 6’ 10” lock Andries Bekker wearing the No. 4 jersey for the Springboks (although the stadium announcer can hardly use the fog as an excuse for mistaking him for absent through injury Bakkies Botha on at least three occasions!).

Well done too to Keith Matthews and Frank Murphy who both played in Ireland A’s clearcut win over Argentina Jaguars.

CONDOLENCES

Deepest sympathy is extended to Anne Finnegan on the death of her mother Josephine Higgins. Condolences too to Martin Gallagher on the recent death of his mother and to club President Raymond Duffy on the death of his sister-in-law Tilly Hoctor.

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