BUCCANEERS kick off this season’s Ulster Bank League Division 1B campaign with a home fixture against Bruff in Dubarry Park on Saturday at 2.30 p.m. Buccs took the honours against the Limerick on the two occasions they met last season but, after surviving the threat of relegation in the playoffs, Bruff will surely give the midlanders a searching test in Athlone.

Buccs will field a much changed squad to that of last season. Conor Higgins and Stephen Burke have both headed to Australia in search of work while Colin Watters is sojourning in USA for a year. Aidan Wynne and Shane Monahan were both released by Connacht while Jaryd Bennett has moved nearer home to further his studies and has joined Dungannon.

However, Buccs have a burgeoning number of exciting young players in their ranks and indeed Connacht’s all conquering U-20 team had no less than 6 young Buccs starting in last week’s win over Munster with another duo also in the squad. Jack Carty, Callum Boland, Robert Henshaw, Conor Finn and Shane Layden all played prominent roles in the Connacht backline while Daniel Qualter was our sole representative in the pack. Substitute Isaac O’Grady and the injured Diarmuid Higgins were also involved in the western squad. The Athlone outfit has also recruited a number of highly promising operators including Michael Kearney, who was Qualter’s second row colleague in the Ireland U-20 side last season, and backrower David Heffernan while richly talented scrumhalf Mark Dolan rejoins his hometown club. Young props Denis Buckley and John Rowe have also arrived at Dubarry Park so competition for the front-row berths will be keen. Eoghan Grace could be a key signing as the former Shannon and Exeter Chiefs player will bring not only his talent but considerable experience to the pack.

Of course, many of the stalwarts of recent seasons are still very much involved in a team that will be captained this year by Kolo Kiripati. The popular Samoan can be counted on to lead by example in the pack where Garreth Halligan, James Tormey, Michael Diffley and Eoin Rooney have a wealth of experience. Flankers John Hayes and Michael Ward will be hoping to break through to the First XV as will the versatile Sean Stapleton but pacey winger Rory O’Connor is ruled out through injury. John O’Brien, Paul Harte, Alex Hayman, Padraig de Burca and Conor Lavelle all missed last week’s game at Corinthians but are hopeful of being fit for selection.

Their availability would be a decided boost for coach Hendre Marnitz as Buccaneers under-performed in the Connacht League. However, the coach had a lengthy absentee list to deal with due to a wide number of injuries and, of course, a high number of young players involved with Connacht U-20s. If he has a full deck to play with, then Buccs will be well placed to commence with a home victory.

However, Bruff are doughty and canny operators who, despite their AIL difficulties last season, captured both the Munster Senior Cup and then the All-Ireland Cup. A splendid double built, primarily, on the industry and cohesion of their pack allayed to a very high percentage return from placekicks. Here, the home pack must front up while, overall, the Pirates must be disciplined.

Bruff have already shown that they do not intend releasing their grip on the Munster Senior Cup, beating Midleton in the quarter-final and then thumping Shannon 31-14 in last week’s semi-final, adding insult to injury to the one-time AIL kingpins by doing so at Coonagh! Tries by Mike Carroll, Cathal O’Regan and John Shine as well as a brace by Paul O’Brien did the damage there with Tony Cahill continuing his family’s tradition with placekicks. David Horan, Alfie Laffan, Brendan Deady and Tony Cahill are others who will give it their all in Bruff’s cause, so Buccs will need to match fire with fire.

All in all, a right good ding-dong battle looks in prospect in this opener but, if Buccaneers are close to full strength and hit the ground running, then they can make home advantage pay.

Meanwhile, Buccaneers Development squad, boosted by their impressive win over Ballinrobe, will be in optimistic mood heading to Gort on Sunday for their Connacht Junior 1B League clash, kick off 2.30p.m. No fixtures as yet to hand for the Thirds but the U-21 squad commence their South-West Conference campaign at home to Thomond on Saturday week.


DEPLETED BUCCANEERS, fielding a mix of players many of whom had no AIL or Senior experience, made a bad start to their final Connacht Senior League match away to Corinthians and duly paid the price, going down 31-17 at Corinthian Park on Saturday.

Skipper Kolo Kiripati made his first league start of the season in the centre due to a couple of late arrivals while Corinthians got off to a better start with an early penalty. Buccs first half display was riddled with errors and a lack of team application, offering Corinthians too much respect and opportunities. The Tribesmen duly took advantage to grab two converted tries while Buccs outhalf Adam Kennedy added to his side’s difficulties when sin-binned for over-exuberance as a ruck was breaking up. Corinthians led 17-0 at halftime.

But Buccs had began to show some shape in both attack and defence coming up to the interval and the coach instilled more urgency and effort on the resumption. However, Denis Buckley was yellow-carded and Corinthians stretched their lead to 24-0 in his absence. Buccs gave a forward pass when their first real try chance arrived but Kiripati, now in his more familiar backrow berth, was making his presence felt. Martin Staunton, Sean Stapleton and Benny Gilligan made an impression on their introduction and Kiripati stormed through for a try. Staunton quick tapped a close-in penalty for a second try which Kennedy converted to half the arrears and an unlikely comeback looked possible when Buckley picked and went in for a try that left the score 24-17 in favour of the home side. However, Corinthians struck for a late try to seal the spoils.

Both sides will benefit from this outing and, while Buccs (for whom Kiripati was best) did not perform up to expectations, they can point to the lengthy absentee list.   

BUCCANEERS:- K.Naughton; T.Hynes, K.Kiripati (captain), R.McMickan, D.Byrne; A.Kennedy, G.Fallon; D.Buckley, G.Halligan, J.Rowe; J.Tormey, M.Kearney; J.Hayes, D.Heffernan and E.Rooney. Replacements used:- S.Flynn, B.Gilligan, M.Staunton and S.Stapleton.


BUCCANEERS DEVELOPMENT SQUAD bounced back from their opening day debacle in Loughrea to hammer out a 46-3 victory over Ballinrobe in their Connacht Junior 1B League at Dubarry Park on Sunday.

Pre-match downpours made handling a lottery early on but Buccs got to grips with both the slippery ball and their opponents to record an impressive win. Padraig de Burca, Martin Staunton, Anthony Hughes and Adrian Hughes came in to bolster the squad and indeed the former tormented his home club on his return to action after a troublesome injury.

Brian Walsh opened the scoring for Buccs with a brace of tries with Staunton and Rory Byrne also touching down while Ballinrobe’s solitary response was a penalty. Buccs maintained their momentum in a one-sided second half, despite the sin-binning of Sean Stapleton. De Burca helped himself to a pair of tries with Cormac Sheehy and Anthony Hughes also charging over to complete the Pirates eight try haul. Ger Fallon added three conversions.

BUCCANEERS:- C.Sheehy; T.Couper, B.Walsh, Adrian Hughes, G.Walsh; T.Hynes, G.Fallon; M.Staunton, S.Stapleton, B.Gilligan (captain); R.Byrne, Anthony Hughes; P.Hynes, H.Reilly and P.de Burca. Replacements:- R.Grenham (for T.Hynes, inj.) and L.Doran (for Gilligan, inj.).

REFEREE:- Tom Horkan (Connacht).     



Buccs_Women350BUCCANEERS WOMENS TEAM made a winning start, as they strive to get Womens rugby in the club up and running on a proper footing, when they were richly merited 27-10 victors over Tuam in a friendly at Dubarry Park on Sunday. Clapped on to the field of play for their first ever match by the Buccs Development squad who had just completed their fixture, the female Buccs quickly shed their nerves to give an accomplished display.

This was most encouraging as, not only had many of their team never played a rugby match previously, quite a number had never played any team game prior to Sunday! Sure errors occurred and positions sometimes meant nothing, but the Buccettes did not take long in getting down to the serious business of scoring. Just ten minutes in and Roseanne Hogan was romping away for a historic first try for the Buccaneers women with Hannah Hannent adding the conversion. At the end of the opening quarter, the impressive Hogan finished off a move after Buccs had been awarded a five-metre scrum for a promising 12-0 lead.

Tuam got back into the match with a pushover try just before halftime at which stage the home team had lost their influential No. 8 Hannent. However, ten minutes into the second half, Hogan robbed possession from Tuam and made huge yardage before off-loading to Anne Marie Sleator who popped the ball to Niamh Gough for a smashing try in the left corner. Tuam kept in contention with their second try on 59 minutes but seven minutes later  winger Gough went flying down the flank again to touchdown after a dash from halfway.

Three minutes from time the ever alert Hogan capitalised on a Tuam handling error and she had both the composure and technique to hack the ball on and win the race to touch down at the posts for Buccs fifth try to complete a really good 27-10 winning margin.

This was a hugely promising all-round effort by the ‘Buccettes’ who will greatly benefit from now having a match under their collective belts. Hannent was a tower of strength in the forwards exchanges until her unfortunate injury and she is wished a speedy recovery of her torn ligaments. Emma Pillion astutely filled a variety of roles and Catherine Moore drove her pack on throughout. Both try scorers Hogan and Gough showed a keen eye for the try-line as well as pace and pep in their endeavours. Rimante Eartnika was a devastating tackler and the O’Shea girls also caught the eye in a total team display that was surely encouraging for both manager Claire Wyper and coach Tom Reilly.

BUCCANEERS squad:-  Y.O’Shea (captain), C.Moore, A.M.Sleator, M.Meaney, E.Henshaw, A.Kenny, E.Pillion, S.O’Shea, C.Mannion, L.Stuart-Trainor, R.Hogan, N.Gough, H.Hannent, C.Silke, S.Shine, A.Corry, T.Finnerty, R.Eartnika, M.Devaney, N.Egan, I.Reynolds and S.Hynes. 


There will be musical entertainment in The Bounty on Saturday night after the Buccs v Bruff match with ‘TOP BRASS’ live in the venue. All welcome.

BUCCANEERS LOTTO is scheduled to start next month. The Jackpot starts at €2,000 with the prize fund rising by €200 every week that the Jackpot is not won. It is hoped that the LOTTO will be well supported by all members and if every member bought one LOTTO and sold another one, then the club’s need to hold many other fund-raisers during the year would be greatly reduced. The weekly cost is only €2 and payment can be made by Annual Bankers Order of €100 or four quarterly payments of €38. All sold tickets, ensuring you have your 4 lucky numbers selected, should be returned as early as possible to facilitate the smooth start to our club LOTTO.

The club lost a life long loyal supporter and unique character with the passing of Paddy Grogan at the age of 83 at the weekend. Paddy was feted earlier this summer in the club by the Athlone team that won the Connacht U-20 Cup of 1971. The Glasson publican coached this squad. Paddy himself enjoyed success on the rugby playing fields too, firstly with Roscommon who triumphed in the Connacht Junior Cup final of 1953 when defeating UCG. Two years earlier he had also contested a Connacht Junior Cup final with Roscommon who lost to Corinthians after extra time. He avenged that defeat by Corinthians when he played on the Athlone team that captured the 1960 Connacht Junior Cup but his greatest achievement was, arguably, playing a key role on the Athlone team that won the club’s first ever Connacht Senior Cup in 1955. After his playing exploits, Paddy served the club as Trustee for nigh on 40 years. Paddy was pre-deceased by his son Simon and heartfelt condolences are extended to his wife Moira, son Gerard, daughters Olivia and Miriam and extended family. 

Deepest sympathy is also extended to Martin Webster and family on the death of his mother Lily less than two months after the passing of his father Tom.


Buccs Women before their 1st game


Connacht Emerging Talent squad named for game against Leinster North Midlands