BUCCS BID FOR PROMOTION AS PIRATES SET TO INVADE BALLYNAHINCH!

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE

BUCCANEERS bid for promotion when they travel north to Co. Down on Saturday to go head to head with Ballynahinch in the Division One promotion/ relegation playoff at Ballymacarn Park, kick off 2.30 p.m. With the Division 1A team having home advantage, it makes the task a little more challenging but if Buccs play to their collective strengths and potential, then the Pirates can make a successful cross-border raid.

With so much at stake, a full-blooded encounter is anticipated. Both teams finished their respective campaigns strongly with Hinch securing three bonus point victories that helped them avoid automatic relegation. Meanwhile, Buccs were also firing on all cylinders winning six games in a row to overhaul both Corinthians and U.L.Bohemian in the run in and thus earn the play-off opportunity.

Ballynahinch are doughty battlers, particularly on their own elevated grounds on the slopes of Slieve Croob. You can almost surely bet on it being breezy at this exposed venue. The Ulster side gained promotion last season but struggled to get any real momentum until that late sequence of wins staved off relegation. Buccs will be striving to ensure that that was merely temporary! But first they will have to stand up and be counted against a physical northern outfit.

The Hinch pack is bulky and thrives on mauling play. Loosehead prop Kyle McCall is a key operator here as is the seasoned Chris Stevenson. Lock Ken Morton and No.8 Michael Graham are their chief lineout targets while the work on the ground of flanker Paul Pritchard in turning over possession must be negated by Buccaneers. Fullback Rodger McBurney is a strong runner while wing David McIwaine also has a penchant for scoring tries. Livewire scrumhalf Aaron Cairns chases everything so is an all-round danger. Harry McAleese is likely to be his halfback partner although Richard Lobb will vie for this position. Stuart Morrow skippers the side but the centre is an injury worry for the home team.

Meanwhile, Buccaneers should be able to select from full strength as the talismanic Kolo Kiripati and dynamic Luke Satchwell look like being fit and raring to go for this most important game of a long season. James Tormey too should be fully recovered from the injury sustained at Terenure College. With Danny Qualter, Conor Kindregan and Mata Fifita in the frame, coach Tony Dolan has strength and experience to select from in this section of the pack where Evan Galvin, Sam McCormack, Ruairi Byrne, Josh O’Rourke and possibly Cian Romaine could also be involved. Martin Staunton will surely return to form a competitive and able front row with Garreth Halligan and Diarmuid Higgins. Here Jacob Walshe and Bryan Teape are promising options.

Scrumhalf Mark Dolan is another sure to return. He was rested as a precaution against Terenure College and his endeavours throughout the season earned him the ‘Connacht Senior Club Player of the Year’ award last weekend. His halfback partner Jack Carty was another winner at the province’s Annual Awards event being named ‘Connacht Academy Player of the Year’. This duo know each other inside out and can be the fulcrum to a Buccaneers victory on Saturday if they dictate the tempo and territory of the game. Conor Finn has been in exemplary form of late in the centre alongside canny skipper Alex Hayman. Callum Boland, Shane Layden, Billy Henshaw and Eoghan O’Reilly will all ask questions of Hinch when in possession while Ger O’Connor (who acquitted himself well in recent outings) and Tiernan O’Halloran are others who could be unleashed in an attack minded backline.

Tackle count and technique could be critical at Ballymacarn Park and the midlanders must relentlessly channel their aggression in a disciplined manner. If they play to their collective potential with pace and focus, the Athlone side are well capable of joining the top-flight of club rugby in Ireland. Come on, the Buccs!

SUPPORTERS BUS TO BALLYNAHINCH

The Buccaneers team is looking for your support at Ballynahinch on Saturday and you can take the hardship out of the journey by travelling on a Supporters bus. So let’s get mobilised for this most important match of the season. Please contact our Administrator Geraldine at 0861732711or email to [email protected] as early as possible to book your seat on the Supporters Bus. Further bus(es) will be booked subject to demand. Bus leaves Dubarry Park on Saturday morning at 9.15 a.m. which should be sufficient time for a “pit stop” enroute and also get to the ground in good time to be part of the atmosphere and build up to the game. Adult return fare only €15.             

U-17’s Lift Connacht Cup

BUCCANEERS 11 BALLINASLOE 7

Bucc17It was a proud moment for all associated with this fine Buccaneers side when Colin Kenny lifted the Connacht U-17 Cup at the Sportsground, Galway, after overcoming Ballinasloe 11-7 in a very tight final. Captain Luke Carty asked Colin to accept the cup on behalf of the team in recognition of the significant role that Colin has played with the team as a player in the early rounds and now as a backs coach. It was a fierce contest with our local rivals, who played a hard physical game to maximise the power of their pack and they almost took the game. Backrower George O’Hara will be long remembered by the management and coaching team of Joe Browne, Craig Worley and Rory Grenham for that last ditch hold up and turnover as Ballinasloe were marching menacingly towards the Buccaneers line in added time.

The Sportsground was in excellent condition and, despite a strong wind blowing end to end, it was a perfect day for a rugby showpiece and that is what the large crowd got. Ballinasloe began strongest winning a penalty after six minutes but the wind conditions were too difficult and the kick was missed. From this point to half time, Buccaneers dominated the exchanges but they could not get a fluency going as Ballinasloe slowed the game and tactically sought to ensure the Buccs back line was restricted. The first score of the game came when Ryan Jinks broke off a great feed from scrum half Paddy Browne following a strong forwards push. Jinks bounced the first tackle and it lifted the team and, a few phases later, Buccaneers were awarded a penalty. Carty showed nerves of steel as he had to replace his kick and then kick into the wind with the referee telling him time was running out. The ball was sweetly struck to give Buccaneers the lead.

On 12 minutes Buccaneers struck again, with strong running from the backs setting up a series of scrums close to the Ballinasloe line. From the final phase, Ross Cooper carried and could not be stopped to score in the right corner. Carty’s conversion was struck well but missed. Buccs kept this 8-0  lead to the break and, with the wind advantage to their favour in the second half, most commentators awaited the Buccaneers back line to go to work in earnest.

Ballinasloe had other ideas and they executed superbly a game plan of ball retention, picking and going through the pack. Buccaneers were forced to defend for most of the half, with only fleeting advances from Conor Murray and Brian Stack in what is otherwise widely regarded as a very threatening Pirates back line. It was hard work and Cooper and O’Hara in particular had excellent games as they stemmed the early tide. This Buccaneers team has great character and they weathered the storm to register the next score, a penalty converted by Carty.

Buccaneers were now eleven points up, but Ballinasloe stuck to their game plan and on 26 minutes they were rewarded with a try, which was converted, to leave a gap of just four points going into the last ten minutes. Buccs responded and sought to try and get field advantage and play the game in the opposition half. Front rowers Mikey Burnell, Austin Murphy and Conor Kelly and replacement Donal Ryan kept going despite the clear fatigue from the forwards effort and Buccaneers were camped on the Ballinasloe line with a couple of minutes to go. Ballinasloe, however, somehow turned the ball over and began a phase of play that lasted five minutes and ended up on the Buccaneers five metre line with that now famous steal from man of the match O’Hara. It was a defining moment and, with the game well into injury time, it proved to be the final winning moment.

The final whistle blew and Buccaneers were champions. The players, mentors and families celebrated on the pitch with a mixture of joy and relief.  It was an arm wrestle from start to finish and Buccaneers showed conclusively that they can win forward battles as well as play exciting running rugby. Full credit to Ballinasloe for the fight and spirit they displayed and it will be interesting to see these two sides in the coming years battle it out for further honours in the province.

The Cup was received to rapturous applause and it was a fitting and special moment for Colin Kenny. The team will receive their medals at the Club Youths award evening in Buccaneers club on May 10th and all players are looking forward to catching up and reliving the game before the Summer Break.

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Kelly, A.Murphy, M.Burnell; B.Collins, R.Jinks; K. Rigney, G.O’Hara, R. Cooper; P.Browne, L Carty (captain); B.McEvoy, T.Ryan, B.Stack, J.O’Keeffe; C.Murray.  J.Wentzel, D.Ryan, W.O’Meara, J.Berry, K.Jocker, B.Finlay, B.Daly, D.Deehan, N.O’Kane, P. Daly, C.Cleary, C.Reid and C.Kenny.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARDS

BUCCANEERS ANNUAL AWARDS event takes place in The Bounty on Friday week, May 9th. The adult Player of the Year winners will be named on the night and presentations will also be made to the seven Buccaneers players who have represented Ireland during the season. ‘The Buccaneers Clubperson of the Year’ will also be unveiled and presented with the Michael Hanley Memorial Perpetual Cup. The U-20’s and Thirds will be presented with their Cup and League medals respectively.

The Buccaneers Player of the Year nominations are, in alphabetical order:-

SENIOR:-             Mark Dolan, Billy Henshaw & Martin Staunton.

U-20:-                    Terence Hynes, Conor McGrath & Eoghan O’Reilly.

WOMEN:-            Aislinn Kelleher, Antoinette Kemmy & Emer Phelan.

SECONDS:-         Ruairi Byrne, Niall Flynn & Cian O’Reilly.

THIRDS:-             Nick Hyland, Martin Lyons & Nick Purcell.

U-19:-                    Sean Doyle, Dan Kiely & Conor Morrissey.

Guests will enjoy a three-course dinner with wine, starting at 8 p.m., followed by dancing and late bar. Tickets are now on sale at the club and/or The Bounty at just €25 per head, which is keen value indeed. Smart dress! It promises to be a thoroughly enjoyable occasion as Buccaneers reflect on a memorable and successful season overall. So, book now, come along and be part of the celebrations!

The Underage Awards will be presented on Saturday, May 10th.

Best of luck to ROBBIE HENSHAW who has again been nominated for the ‘Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year’ award (which he won last year) at next week’s IRUPA (Irish Rugby Players Association) Awards.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Because of the big playoff match in Ballynahinch, Buccaneers Minis and Youths SPONSORED CYCLE has been put back by one week until Saturday, May 10th. This departs from the club at 12 noon and takes in a 5k route around Coosan. It will be followed by an end-of-season party for these young players. Sponsorship cards have been issued now so good luck with your endeavours!

The ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING of Buccaneers R.F.C. takes place in The Bounty on Friday, May 23rd at 8 p.m. All members should have received their Notices and Nomination Forms by post or email at this stage.

TAG RUGBY SUMMER LEAGUE resumes on Thursday, May 22nd. Mixed teams of males and females can enter; squad of 13 players, with 3 females on the field of play at all times. Check club’s website www.buccaneersrfc.com for further information.

 

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