Buccaneers won the day at Glenina coming from behind to assert their worthiness by winning handsomely 17-12 in their Connacht U-17 Cup game against Galwegians at Crowley. This was the most difficult test this year so far. The quality and style of play of both teams was a credit to all the players and coaches involved. Playing cup rugby in Glenina, headquarters of the proud Galwegian territory, always invokes memories of hard fought cunning strategies that usually see the home side win. Victory was all the more sweet for Buccs as this result comes on the back a month ago of a defeat by the same team in the Connaught League final which allowed Galwegians advance onto All-Ireland finals. This time was to be different.
In a cup tie anything could happen and scoring came early for the home side by way of a well taken try which saw them counter-attacking from a Buccs kick and then ran the ball wide out of defence to scamper over Buccs line for a try. Significantly this score remained unconverted as the home side’s kicker hadn’t a kicking tee organised in time, so the referee instructed him to place the ball and kick it and it went wide.
There were not many mistakes and the balance of decisions by the referee was evenly spread. Early on Buccaneers didn’t seem to be committed fully in their efforts and had to come from behind. This changed when Robbie Henshaw ran a threatening line through the home defence and his legs were taken out from under him by what seemed to be a kick. After that the Buccs nervousness was over and without inhibition they set the home side to task by improving beyond recognition and maintaining superiority in almost all areas of play right throughout the game. Buccs played with confidence with a fantastic supply of quality ball from set pieces, particularly from the back or front of line outs allowed the ball distributors at numbers 9 and 10 to vary and for the most part control the game with some ease.
Likewise quick recycling of ground ball gave options and these resulted in the ball being swung through many hands to leave it to Conor Seery to weave his way inside his man to the line. This equalising try near the touchline was converted by Henshaw who by now had recovered from the earlier dead leg and he put Buccs into a lead which they never relinquished. There was no further score in the first half but Buccs, purposely lead by team captain James Donoghue, had now built up relentless momentum in their team work as Buccs seemed to move up another gear that continued into the second half.
After the restart Buccs applied pressure in every area of attack and defence resulting in another successful Henshaw kick from a penalty that brought the score to 10-5. This resurgence saw Donoghue playing an outstanding role as team captain inspiring others and as wing forward by committing himself to contact time and again. Colm Conroy must get special mention for his powerful, intelligent influence in the tight and in the loose as does Dylan Lynch and John Dooley. Likewise Glen Carey, who in the first half played with impact on his return from injury, proved himself worthy and the pack found themselves at ease in scrums when Brian Teape entered the fray to steady the set pieces. Remarkably Buccaneers won an unprecedented six opposition lineouts.
We were reminded how much the injured players were missed when another one to return from injury namely Aidan Connaughton showed outstanding and intelligent use of the ball interlinking with Barry Digby with almost flawless understanding. The mobility and impact of ‘Big Red’ Lee McLaughlin was obvious throughout this fast moving game and hooker Eoghan Kelly showed what a willing and reliable pair of hands he has while Dooley really came of age cementing his presence in the squad. The commitment of prop Conor Flynn who played an outstanding part in a mid-week match in Tullamore last Tuesday night proved his worth as a selection option; similarly Daniel McNeill who entered to the wing in the second half.  Jack Linnane played a stormer at full back with sure safe hands under the high ball and intelligent line kicks always a safe anchor for the team.
The light blues possess a formidable midfield three capable of scoring individually and who link together with great style if they are allowed, but Buccs midfield players played an outstanding role in necessarily cancelling out their opposite numbers with tackles and groundwork into rucks that secured dominance. So Henshaw, Conor FitzGibbon and Mel Corbett worked in the primary tackle and in addition covered out wide areas giving strength in depth. Memories of the League final were not to be repeated and when Wegians repeated running the same lines they ran into a full stop when met by this even more formidable Buccs midfield threesome.
Buccs pressure again resulted in the ball passing through several pairs of hands to put Seery, the man who just came back from multiple serious injuries, to weave his way into the corner for a try leaving the score at 17-5 with ten minutes to play. Especially in those last ten minutes Buccs fitness to defend was remarkable, although the light blues had possession Buccs were driving them back individually and in waves. In the final minute Buccs conceded what was a consolation try to Galwegians which they converted leaving a final scoreline at 12-17. Buccs proudly welcomed the final whistle with delightful cheers.
The entire squad is vital to this cup campaign and thanks to substitutes Eoghan O’Reilly and Ben Carty for committing themselves from another age group and are now part of the squad. While Damian Hyland is away and Conroy suffered a thumb injury and was replaced by Dylan Lynch who rose to the occasion slotting effectively into the pack.
In the back room Manager Paddy Hynes had as usual everything organised covering for everybody else. A speedy recovery is wished for Seamus Donoghue who missed this memorable match through illness. The team wish to applaud coach Jude Lennon who they recognise has brought the performance of this panel to a new level.
BUCCANEERS:- Bryan Teape, Damien Hyland, Lee Mc Loughlin, Simon Garvey, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Seery, Tadhg Hennessy, Cian Bradley, Robert Corcoran, Aidan Conaughton, Barry Digby, Mel Corbett, Glen Carey, John Dooley, James Donoghue, Jack Linnane, Colm Conroy, Cian O’Reilly, Daniel McNeill, Conor FitzGibbon, Jack Donoghue, Eoghan Kelly, John Dooley, Dylan Lynch, Ben Carty and Eoghan O’Reilly.

Buccaneers entered into the sunshine at Dubarry Park and have done  brilliantly to qualify, at the expense of first Galwegians and now Ballinasloe, for the prestigious Connacht U-17 Cup final, where they will meet Monivea in the competition decider to be played on the Sunday after Easter.
Buccs carved out a convincing victory crossing for three well worked tries after just fifteen minutes. The first two of these tries came from the finishing expertise of Conor FitzGibbon who in a splendid showing also laid off the ball for the third try to captain James Donoghue. The visitors were a little shell-shocked at this early stage with the speed and accuracy of the Buccs interpassing and waves of support players available to attack as need be. Thus the home side really offset recent “slow to start” criticisms by exploding from the blocks.
In the first half a single kickable penalty was conceded to the visitors and although it was into a stiff breeze the opportunity was capably converted from forty yards. Meantime a further well taken try by Conor Seery before the half-time whistle left the score at 22-3 at the break. Often wingers have difficulty adapting to the discipline in the centre position but today, in the unfortunate absence through injury of influential centre Mel Corbett, Conor Seery was called in from his more usual position to a new role and acquitted every part of the task with great conviction. Hopefully Corbett will recover and return to action very soon.
The second half saw Ballinasloe with a wind advantage and they deservedly were winning ample possession but their passing moves out of defence often broke down when for the most part surprisingly they overlooked the chances of choosing long relieving kicks that could have eased them into scoring positions in the Buccs half. So much of the second half was spent in the visitors half of the field and apart from some phases of patterned work both teams cancelled each other out. Having said that Buccs did at times make some effort that resulted in another Seery try from twenty yards, another one by winger Conor Haniffy from a similar distance, while a memorable run by Cian Reilly who left three chasing opposition tacklers grasping at thin air as he, much to the delight of the many supporters, weaved along the stand side of Dubarry Park all of fifty yards to the try line.
These scores were fashioned by a good supply of ball came from some strong ground work and steady set pieces. The pick of the forwards were Tadhg Hennessy for his fitness and the ever dangerous Aidan Connaughton again making a huge impact in lineouts and attacking around the fringes of rucks while Jack Linnane provided full-back support with excellent fielding and kicking all day. The link between the backs and forwards was provided most efficiently by the wily scrum half Robert Corcoran who hit his half back partner Robbie Henshaw with timely and accurate ball that allowed him set the three quarter line into forward motion.
Occasionally Corcoran was not protected at the line out and had no chance to pass and he took responsibility himself bringing the ball back into the security of his supporting pack and no more could be asked of him on this the Cup semi final day. In tricky wind conditions, three out of the six tries, none of which were touched down under the posts, and one penalty were soundly converted from out wide by Henshaw.
The fitness of some of the panel was a little disappointing for this time of the season and this allowed lighter opposition forwards to respond more quickly and more often in the breakdown and this will have to be addressed before meeting the ever-determined Monivea side in the final where no ball will go uncontested. Gladly, the whole panel can support one another to improve their fitness. To advance to a Connaught Cup final at any level is a great achievement and to win one, I am told, is always worth the extra effort.
To finish on another high note, thanks are due to Billy Henshaw and his grandfather of the same name for supplying and spending their time using their modern technology to record this game for team video analysis.
BUCCANEERS:-  Bryan Teape, Damien Hyland, Lee McLoughlin, Simon Garvey, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Seery, Tadhg Hennessy, Cian Bradley, Robert Corcoran, Aidan Conaughton, Barry Digby, Mel Corbett, Glen Carey, John Dooley, James Donoghue, Jack Linnane, Colm Conroy, Cian Reilly, Daniel McNeill, Conor FitzGibbon, Jack Donoghue,  Eoghan Kelly, John Dooley, Dylan Lynch, Ben Carty and Eoghan O’Reilly.


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