BUCCANEERS promotion aspirations took a further serious blow as the midlanders sustained their fourth successive Ulster Bank League Division 1B defeat when going down 13-8 to Malone at Gibson Park, Belfast, on Saturday. Harsh weather of driving rain showers and a strong crossfield wind plus very sticky underfoot conditions meant that will to win and belligerence would be key ingredients to separate the two teams who were both going for a much needed win from different perspectives. Malone were tops in both departments and, consequently, also in the match outcome.

Buccs made four changes from last week’s one point loss to Harlequins. Conor Finn was an injury doubt and was on the bench with Tiernan O’Halloran coming in at fullback and Shane Layden switching to centre while Jack Carty returned at outhalf for younger sibling Ben. In the pack, Peter Reilly was at tighthead ahead of Diarmuid Higgins while Conor Kindregan started in the backrow where Kolo Kiripati moved to No.8 in place of the injured Luke Satchwell as Buccs sought to get back to winning ways.

Malone came steaming out of the blocks and swiftly breached the visitors’ defence for an early try that instilled confidence in them as well as fuelling their desire. Connor Joyce made quick ground after Buccs turned over possession and he off-loaded to James McAllister for a fourth minute try and a tonic start. The Pirates were soon on the scoreboard with Carty striking a fine 8th minute penalty. Six minutes later, Joyce was both late and reckless with a challenge on his Ireland U-20 colleague Carty and the flame-haired backrower was a shade fortunate that the card shown by referee John Carvill was yellow. Buccaneers failed to capitalise on their temporary numerical superiority and, indeed, it was the northerners who scored during this period when Nathan Brown drilled over a 23rd minute penalty after Buccs went offside.

Yet, the Shannonsiders were now beginning to edge territory and possession but a knock-on ended promising progress after 25 minutes while Martin Staunton was whistled back when driving for the line eight minutes later after he fastened on to a home tap back from a lineout that the match official deemed to have been knocked on.  A tremendous drive by the Buccs pack in the final move of the half yielded a penalty but Carty’s placekick dropped well short and so Malone led 8-3 at the break.

Malone swopped their white shirts for red for the resumption of action. Buccaneers made little impression in the third quarter and continued to kick away too much possession in an early flurry of ‘tennis’. The hosts were superior in this sector and made fewer errors. Malone grabbed the decisive score after 52 minutes. They found a good touch on the left just five metres out from the Buccs line and the visitors’ lineout went awry. Initially, it seemed that Buccs had escaped when Malone knocked on in their efforts to scramble over but then the Pirates were embarrassed at the subsequent scrum when driven back and alert scrumhalf Shane Kelly capitalised on good work by Lee Barlow to swoop for a try.

Both sides went to their benches and Buccaneers began to make some inroads, albeit without seriously threatening the home line in the face of committed and organised Malone defending. The midlanders’ improving pressure looked like finally reaping reward when they got tantalisingly close and Joyce could not resist slowing progress from an offside position after 67 minutes. The referee had no option but to again yellow card the No.8, thus ensuring Malone were down to 14 players for the remainder of the game. Somehow they lifted the siege on this occasion but looked in dire peril just a few minutes later when, after a mass brawl involving most players, substitute Cory Tipping was red carded after lengthy debate among the match officials. Buccs were fortunate that none of their players accompanied him to the sin bin.

Now reduced to 13 players, Malone put their bodies on the line as they fought tooth and nail to hang on for a vital victory.  They were as tight as the proverbial duck’s rear end in a thunderstorm, and were relentless in tackling and possession. Astoundingly, Buccs persisted in kicking the ball until too late in the contest when they began to make ground primarily through solid carrying by Kindregan. The Monivea man battled to the end and his final sally forward up the left stretched the home rearguard and Carty deftly kicked crossfield to Layden for a try that at least salvaged a losing bonus point.

Malone were worthy 13-8 winners, their first ever victory over Buccaneers. This second successive win moved them up another berth to fourth from bottom and eases their relegation fears somewhat. If they maintain similar all-round and sustained endeavour then they should be secure. Meanwhile, Buccs were again very disappointing, lacking leadership and control too often. They have gone right off the boil from such promising displays as against Blackrock College, Shannon and Dungannon despite the best efforts of Staunton, Garreth Halligan, Kindregan and Mark Dolan. With UL Bohs coming a cropper also in Belfast, Buccs edge above the Limerick club on scoring difference into third place but have surely missed an opportunity to add pressure on second placed Corinthians, whose game fell victim to the weather.

BUCCANEERS:-  T.O’Halloran; B.Henshaw, S.Layden, A.Hayman (captain), S.Macauley; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, P.Reilly; J.Tormey, D.Qualter; S.Casey, C.Kindregan and K.Kiripati. Replacements:- C.Finn (for Hayman, inj. h/t), S.McCormack (for Casey, h/t), D.Higgins (for Reilly, 64 mins), B.Carty (for Macauley, inj. 70 mins) and R.Grenham.

MALONE:-  P.Henderson; T.Acheson, N.Brown, M.Gribben, M.Barker; J.Creighton, S.Kelly; L.Barlow, D.Maxwell, L.McClure; M.Ferguson, R.Millar; J.McAllister, N.Alcorn (captain) and C.Joyce. Replacements:- P.Eadie (for Barlow, 25 mins), C.Tipping (for Millar, 41 mins), L.Barlow (for Eadie, 50 mins), R.Millar (for Kelly, 73 mins), B.McDonnell (for McAllister), J.Malcolm and M.Rainey.

Referee:-  John Carvill (IRFU).       


Buccaneers and Tuam finally got their chance to go head to head after a number of cancelations, with the home team just coming out on top 5-3 in their Connacht Junior U-13 League fixture. The conditions were testing to say the least at a sodden, wet and breezy Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. Cracking fare was served up by both side with the midlanders slightly fortunate to come away with the win.

Buccaneers faced into the elements in the first half but made a bright start by getting a foothold in the opposition half. However, inability to secure their own ball at numerous scrums meant territory was not converted in to points. Buoyed by this, Tuam began to find their rhythm and were making inroads into the Buccs half. An infringement at the breakdown allowed Tuam strike first blood with an expertly converted penalty by their outhalf. That was to prove to be the only score of the half but no indication of the quality of rugby played by both sides.

On the change of ends and with the elements at their backs, the Athlone outfit set about their task with renewed gusto. They were beginning to find their tempo and maintain possession when the ref called a temporary halt to the game to allow players and spectators get some respite from the conditions. On resumption Buccs found their way deep into Tuam territory and, after some initial raids by the pack, Michael Byrne at scrum half sniped from the base of a ruck to score an excellent try to leave the sides 5-3. Tuam came at Buccs in waves and were very unfortunate on a number of occasions not to breach the home line but for some resolute defending.

This was a game played in good spirits with no shortage of skills on display from both teams. Ethan Connolly had his best showing this year with Dean Buckley as ever in the thick of everything good Buccs were about. In the backline, Dairmuid McLoughlin caught the eye with some good distribution and defensive plays, so too Leo McFarlane who looks like a serious threat in the outside channels. This display was particularly pleasing as Buccs were short a number of their key players and tees things up nicely for the preliminary round of the Cup at home to Claremorris.

BUCCANEERS:- Jack Martin, Conor Larkin, Daniel Westman, Leo MacFarlane, Diarmuid McLoughlin,  Darragh Murray (captain),, Michael Byrne, Ethan Connolly, Dean Buckley, Chiazokam Alozie, Ruaidhri Campion, Billy Dalton, Martin Fallon, Julian Devaney, Evan Gallagher. Replacements:, Shane Green, Fergus O’Sullivan, Vicente Gaetani, Scott Ward, Fergus O’Sullivan, Faolan Kennedy, Cian Lawless, Eoin Slevin, Jack Buckley and Jesse Middleton.


BUCCANEERS U-20s face two acid tests with successive trips to Cork this month in the South-West Conference Division One League. First up is a joust against University Collge, Cork, on Saturday with a 12 noon kick off for this showdown which is (at time of writing) scheduled for UCC’s Curraheen Road grounds in the west of the city.

UCC are in fourth place in this league on 18 points, with one game less played than the Athlone side. Meanwhile, Buccs lie in second spot on 27 points, just a single point behind leaders Cork Constitution whom the midlanders travel to on February 22nd.  A young and eager Buccs have won all six matches to date and will be keen to maintain their momentum against a College outfit that will undoubtedly provide their stiffest examination to date. Nevertheless, this is a very well balanced crew of young Pirates who all work for each other. Eoghan O’Reilly, Ben Carty, Sean Doyle and Ricky Dixon are backs with wonderful potential. The pack is not the biggest around but forwards such as Saba Meunargia, Josh O’Rourke, Sam McCormack and Cian Romaine can be counted on to make notable impressions in the absence of Ireland U-20 duo Jacob Walshe and Rory Moloney. Overall, Buccs seem to have a decent blend that can mix panache and grunt and so the Pirates can travel with some confidence.


BUCCANEERS SECONDS face Dunmore on Sunday in the Connacht Junior Plate competition. Kick off at The Green is 2 p.m. On form, Buccs should have a slight advantage but home territory and the passion of a knockout fixture could drive the Co. Galway side on. However, if the Pirates muster a decent and focussed crew, they can progress but they will have to scrap to the bitter end. Extra time may need to be played!


Congrats to Buccaneers duo Jacob Walshe and Rory Moloney who both came on in Ireland U-20’s impressive Electric Ireland Six Nations win at Dubarry Park. Well done, guys. Congrats too to Noel Ryan on his retirement. Noelie is one of the true characters around the club who played for more years than he may care to remember! Perhaps he may have time now to come on Committee, where his wit would surely liven up many a meeting? Seriously, best wishes Noel and Deirdre and may you enjoy many good years of retirement bliss.


“Thank You” to everyone who helped out in any way at last Friday’s Electric Ireland U-20 International fixture against Scotland. We look forward to your continued support when Ireland play Wales in Dubarry Park on this Friday when, hopefully, the weather will be kinder.



Gallery: University of Galway hosts Kay Bowen Cup