BUCCS HOME TO GALWEGIANS IN VITAL LEAGUE TEST

RUGBY  with  MICHAEL  SILKE

BUCCANEERS entertain Galwegians in the sixth round of the All Ireland League Division 1B when these arch Connacht rivals clash at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday afternoon. Both sides will be chasing victory in this crunch encounter but from different perspectives. The Athlone club will be eager to keep very much in the promotion hunt while Galwegians are enduring a torrid sequence at present. On form, Buccs will be warm favourites but in derby jousts such as this form can quickly go out the window. This match, Buccaneers last home game before Christmas, is sponsored by Ganlys of Athlone and kicks off at 2.30 p.m.

It marks a big turnaround in the playing fortunes of both teams from last season when the westerners had the Indian sign on the midlanders and also enjoyed a fairly decent AIB League campaign. But Buccs regrouped quietly and have gone about their business a lot more efficiently this term. After avoiding relegation with a wonderful final four match winning streak last season under David Henshaw with assistance from Charlie Couper, the Pirates retained virtually all of last season’s squad and then recruited Hendre Marnitz as a Senior Coach. This young South African’s ethos and ideas have been bought into by the players and they are responding by working hard at training and getting decent performances and results on matchdays, with just one AIL defeat to date.

Marnitz is harvesting the best out of his generally youthful but talented panel and has not been afraid to give raw youth a fling. If they are good enough, they are old enough seems to be the mantra and teenagers such as Jack Carty, Daniel Qualter and Callum Boland have started games to good effect already. Adam Kennedy, Paul Harte, Conor Higgins, John O’Brien, Padraig de Burca, Jarrod Bennett and Martin Staunton are not much older but they too have been equal to the challenges as Buccs have climbed the league table to within one point of leaders Clontarf. Add in the likes of club captain Garreth Halligan, Kolo Kiripati, Alex Hayman, Colin Watters, Stephen Burke, James Tormey and Marcus Madden into the mix and you have the nucleus of a very formidable outfit at this level. Connacht’s Conor O’Loughlin, Aidan Wynne, Brian Touhy and Shane Monahan add an extra dimension, depending on whichever quota of ‘contracted’ players are made available by the province. The returned David Connellan and Monivea’s Eoin Rooney are two other players champing at the bit for action while Conor Lavelle did well on his return against UL Bohs after a lengthy injury absence. All in all, Buccs have more options than in recent campaigns and, while the squad is mainly young, the players generally have lots of experience including at representative level. At time of writing, smashing centre Harte is Buccaneers major injury concern.

After a promising opening day victory away to UL Bohemian, Galwegians have suffered four straight defeats but only one of these was by a heavy margin, away to Lansdowne where the artificial surface on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium must give the Dubliners a decided advantage. Their other three losses were, surprisingly, all at Crowley Park with their most recent upset at the hands of Bruff a real setback. However, any thoughts that Buccs supporters may feel that this encounter might be a foregone conclusion should be promptly discounted for Wegians, in dire need of a win, will be highly dangerous foes who will come to Athlone will all guns blazing.

Buccs defeated the Tribesmen when they met earlier this season in the Connacht Senior League but the margin did not reflect Galwegians endeavours on that occasion, although the Pirates will reflect on getting the job done despite not playing anywhere near their true potential. Like Buccs, the westerners have a lot of young burgeoning talent in their squad such as outhalf Tadhg Leader, fullback Rob O’Beirn and back-rowers Eoin McKeon and Nick McCarthy. Captain John Cleary leads by example and is one of the leading try scorers in the AIL this year. He loves nothing better than facing Buccs so his influence will certainly need to be curbed. Centre Dave Clarke (who broke the midlanders’ hearts last season with his injury time drop goal), flanker Ivan Muldoon, lock Brian McClearn and scrum half Ronan Dillon are others who will not lack motivation for the light blues who will be looking to ‘contracted’ players such as Andrew Browne, Darragh Fanning and David Nolan to boost their cause. Ja Naughton, Conor Muldoon and Jamie Stephens form a competitive front row for the visitors.

Buccaneers are playing with much flair and enterprise as well as lots of pragmatism and discipline this season. They have a good all-round balance and tons of team spirit. So, if they guard against complacency and play with focus and sustained application, they are well capable of prevailing in the battle for bragging rights in Connacht. It may be tough and dogged, but Buccs should have the wherewithal to overcome the men from the west in front of what will surely be the biggest crowd of the season to date at Dubarry Park.

Other fixtures

BUCCANEERS and Galwegians also square up to each other in the U-21 National League South-West Conference on Saturday when these sides clash at Crowley Park, Galway, scheduled kick off 2.30 p.m.

This is likely to be a tight affair as Buccs strive to return to winning ways. They showed great potential away to Shannon but then disappointed at UL Bohs while Cork Con proved too strong last time out in Athlone. Nevertheless, there is decent potential and ability in this squad with the likes of John Hayes, the Fagan brothers, David Henshaw, Joe Kenny and Jonathan Clarke well able to mix it at this level. Callum Boland and Jarrod Bennett, if not in the Senior squad for the AIL match, would certainly add quality to this panel. Buccs will need to step up on their past two displays but that is something that they are collectively well able to do and, if they do, then they can get a key win at Glenina.

THE THIRDS are away to Tuam in the Connacht Junior 2A League with the sides playing under floodlights on Friday, kick off 8 p.m. These sides know each other well already as they have played friendlies home and away while the league fixtures list was being drawn up. Both matches have been even enough contests and this tie is unlikely to be a whole lot different but Buccs, buoyed by their decent draw with leaders Monivea, may edge this joust.

BUCCANEERS  7  MONIVEA  7

BUCCANEERS THIRDS and Monivea Seconds played out a 7-7 draw in their Connacht Junior 2A League game played under lights at Dubarry Park on Friday night. Conditions were quite good for this contest between two well-drilled and efficient sides. In a tight contest overall, both teams had spells of supremacy but generally cancelled each other out.

Buccs got off to flying start with a well-judged chip over the cover by Karl Turley fastened onto by Keith O’Neill to set up Mossy Turley for an early try which Michael Donohoe converted. However, Monivea responded soon afterwards when they moved the ball from their own 22 to notch their try a bit too easily for the liking of home mentors. This try was converted and in a game of nip and tuck no further scores emanated despite the best endeavours of both sides who both squandered kickable placekicks. Buccs should have finished off a couple of mauls with tries and could have won but, nevertheless, will be reasonably pleased with both a good team performance and sharing the spoils against a strong visiting outfit.

BUCCANEERS:-  M.Donohoe; K.O’Neill, A.Roche, P.Byrne, R.Silke; D.Costello, K.Turley; R.O’Brien, E.Bracken, Alan Hughes; P.Hynes, M.Coleman; T.Turley, M.O’Regan and S.Byrne. Replacements used:- C.Doran, R.Byrne and D.Griffith.

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN!

IRFU President Caleb Powell will be the chief guest of honour at next Saturday’s home AIL game against Galwegians when he will perform a symbolic opening of the improved main pitch at Dubarry Park. FAI President Paddy McCaul will be another guest at the club as will Connacht President Jim Foy, Athlone Golf Club Mens Captain  Michael Cleary and Athlone Golf Club Ladies Captain Kay Vaughan. The take-up of tables for the pre-match function for the Galwegians match is most encouraging and includes a representation from St. Brigid’s G.A.A. club who are congratulated on their late but all the sweeter Connacht club championship success last Sunday. Incidentally, anyone interested in taking a pre-match table at this match (or at a fixture in the New Year) should contact our Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711. Table costs only €240 per eight persons.

Congrats too to Laura Greene, who was a key member of the team of ladies who organised Buccaneers recent successful Fashion Show, on her super prize win on RTE TV’s “Saturday Night Live with Brendan O’Connor”. Nicely timed with Christmas just around the corner!  Well done too to Sean Cronin on his display when coming on as an early replacement for Rory Best in Ireland’s encounter with the mighty All Blacks last Saturday.

RETIREMENTS

Two former Buccaneers players, most recently with Leinster, Ronan McCormack and John Fogarty have retired  due to injury. McCormack in particular was a wonderful stalwart for Buccs. Both players were in the thick of the front row action and Fogarty captained Ireland A and also made one Senior appearance for his country. Their most cherished achievements is likely to be both playing for Leinster in their memorable Heineken Cup final triumph over Leicester at Murrayfield. We wish both players all the best in the future.

CONDOLENCES

Deepest sympathy is extended to the family of the late Dessie Lynch.

IRELAND v ARGENTINA

Tickets for Ireland’s final Guinness series match against Argentina on Sunday afternoon next are still on sale, at a reduced price, from David Connolly at 087-6471308.

BUCCANEERS MERCHANDISE – THE PERFECT GIFT AT CHRISTMAS!

A full range of Buccaneers merchandise including replica jerseys, hoodies and beanies will be on sale at the club this Saturday before and after the big AIL game against Galwegians. Jerseys similar to the Senior team are priced at €50, socks with logo only €8 and embroidered club tops can be bought for just €30. Pop in to the ‘Lower Deck’ (on the car park side of the Bounty) to check out the items on offer. The gear makes ideal Christmas gifts for budding Brian O’Driscoll’s, Paul O’Connell’s or Kolo Kiripati’s!    

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