BUCCS FACE BALLYMENA IN FLOODLIT GAME

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

BUCCANEERS have scheduled their AIB League Division 1B game at home to Ballymena to be played under the Dubarry Park floodlights on Saturday night with the action kicking off at 6.30 p.m. In an effort to make games more attractive to supporters, the Athlone club approached all the other teams in Division 1B seeking floodlit matches (with the Pirates willing to reciprocrate with late kick offs for their away fixtures) but only two responded positively while the majority of the remaining clubs did not even reply.

With the club game struggling to keep itself afloat when punters are spoiled for choice with Heineken Cup and Premiership alternatives on TV, the midlanders are willing to endeavour and adapt to coax increased support. Sadly, too many other clubs are blinkered in their opinions and too few willing to try different approaches in the face of increased competition to entice the now more discerning followers. Ballymena and Dungannon are the two clubs willing to participate in this experiment, even though in Ballymena’s case they do not have floodlights at Eaton Park, while the third northern club Ballynahinch (although not willing to change kick off time this season) at least had the manners to reply reasonably promptly to Buccs request.

So Buccaneers mentors gratefully acknowledge Ballymena’s acceding to the request to play under floodlights and now the midlanders are hoping that the weather will improve dramatically over the coming days so that the match can go ahead as scheduled at 6.30 pm. Indeed, such is the extremity of the weather at time of writing that even at this stage the full fixtures list for next weekend must be in grave doubt. Buccs game away to Old Belvedere was among the rather long list of cancelled fixtures last weekend. Arguably, the midlanders were not too disappointed about that as training has been seriously curtailed since Christmas.

Buccaneers scored a morale boosting win away to Ballymena when the sides met up north on Halloween weekend. Buccs put in a really spirited, co-ordinated and sustained effort that afternoon to spring a surprise against the Braidmen. They will need to repeat those heroics on Saturday night if they are to return again to winning ways and will welcome back J.H.Potgeiter to the match squad. The young Springbok is fit again after a brief visit home to South Africa at Christmas. With Connacht due to play Montpellier in the Amlin Challenge Cup on Friday night (kick off 7 pm), the midlanders may have the luxury of one or two ‘contracted’ players available against Ballymena which would considerably boost their chances. For now, however, the weather is the real worry but hopefully Dubarry Park will be playable come the weekend.

Buccaneers Reserves were due to face UCG in their refixed Heineken Connacht Junior Cup preliminary round match last Sunday but it too was “frozen” off and is likely to be rescheduled for this Sunday in Dangan, Galway, as the first round proper also gets under way next weekend. This will mean a deferral of the rearranged Connacht Junior League match away to Westport and also, unfortunately, the cancellation of the first visit of Ballymena’s Seconds to Athlone on Saturday.

The Thirds are supposed to play UCG away in the Connacht J2 League on Sunday but, I suspect, that this is the same College team due to tackle our Seconds in the Cup so is unlikely to take place. Meanwhile, Buccs U-21 South-West Conference National League game at home to Galwegians has not yet been rescheduled and must be rated doubtful for next weekend.

INTERNATIONAL TICKETS

In accordance with IRFU policy, Buccaneers are packaging match tickets for the forthcoming series of home RBS Six Nations matches at Croke Park. Thus, members must purchase tickets for ALL three games, albeit supply and demand will be a key factor on availability. Members should write their tickets requirements into the relevant ‘Tickets book’ at The Bounty and, most importantly, ensure that their Membership Subscriptions are fully paid up for the current season. Tickets for the two away international matches will be like the proverbial “hen’s teeth” – extremely limited!

TICKETS ON SALE NEXT WEEK FOR U-20 INTERNATIONALS IN ATHLONE
Tickets for Ireland’s three home U-20 Six Nations Championship games which, in association with ESB International, take place again in Dubarry Park, Athlone, will go on sale next week. Early purchase of ‘Stand’ tickets is recommended while keenly priced ‘Family’ tickets will also undoubtedly prove hugely popular. Full details next week.

Ireland kick off their campaign when Italy visit Athlone on Friday, February 5th.  Wales are the next visitors on Friday, March 12th followed by Scotland one week later on Friday, March 19th. Kick off time is 7.30 p.m. and RTE’s cameras will be televising all three matches live.

RTE TV will also cover the AIB Cup Finals from Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday, January 30th when two of the country’s famed clubs Garryowen and Cork Constitution go head to head in the Senior final. Alan Gaughan will be hoping to be back in the Limerick club’s starting XV by then after his injury lay-off. The Junior Cup finalists are still not known with both semi-finals between holders Tullamore v Armagh and Monivea v City of Derry having been called off on a number of occasions due to the arctic-like weather.

CAR RAFFLE

Members should return all sold tickets for Buccaneers’ Car Raffle Draw which is scheduled to take place in February. Once again, remember that a super 2010 RENAULT MEGANE COUPE is on offer for just a tenner or, better again,  three tickets can be purchased for only €20. Great value indeed. Keep your shoulders to the wheels, folks, for this vital fund-raiser for the club.

CONDOLENCES

Deepest sympathy is extended to Nigel So and family on the sudden passing of his mother Susie.

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