by MICHAEL SILKE

For more see buccaneersrfc.com

BUCCANEERS take on leaders Terenure College in what should be a pulsating Ulster Bank League Division 1B game at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday afternoon. Kick off is 2.30 p.m. for this top of the table clash as second placed Buccs bid to close the gap on the pace-setters.

Buccs were in magnificent form for goodly spells in recent clearcut victories over Dungannon and particularly Blackrock College. They suffered a setback last time out at U.L.Bohemian but were forced to field a very depleted and young side that day when no less than nine regulars were on duty with Connacht Eagles. Hopefully, most of those players will be available for this crunch tie and, if they are, then the Pirates will really throw down the gauntlet to the visitors.

Terenure won Division 2A last season and, with it, promotion. They have continued in impressive style to date with a formidable amount of scores to their credit. Tries have come from a wide range of players so there is danger in all sectors of their team with wings Ian Hanly and Shane Donovan looking the most potent. Add the very consistent place-kicking of fly-half Mark O’Neill to that and Buccs will need to be committed and disciplined all around the paddock. Centres John Bollard and Graham Coffey both played when the clubs last met in the 2006/7 AIL as did locks Kevin O’Dwyer and Alex Dunlop, the latter then captaining Nure at No.8. The metropolitans have enjoyed a dominant lineout in most matches this season and boast a ferociously competitive front five.

Buccs have just two survivors from the last meeting, the redoubtable duo Alex Hayman (who skippers the Pirates this term) and Garreth Halligan. James Tormey and Kolo Kiripati can also be counted on to give guile and leadership to their young ‘shipmates’ who, nevertheless, have a fine amount of decent experience in their ranks.  Jack Carty, Mark Dolan, Danny Qualter and Martin Staunton are a quartet who will relish Saturday’s challenge as will Luke Satchwell, David Heffernan, Rory Moloney and Peter Reilly. Shane Layden, Steve Macauley and Billy Henshaw have been regular try-grabbers this season while Callum Boland, Eoghan O’Reilly and Ben Carty also have pace and potential aplenty. Conor Kindregan, Shane Casey and Diarmuid Higgins are others who will not shirk in the heat of battle come Saturday.

This will be Buccaneers most searching test to date against one of just two teams in the AIL sporting 100% records (Division 2B leaders Nenagh Ormonde are the others). However, if the midlanders reproduce the flair and tempo, discipline and support play exhibited in recent wins with greater consistency, then they can finish the year on a high in what should be a humdinger contest.

The biggest crowd for some time is anticipated and Buccaneers are encouraging all sports fans in the region to come along on Saturday. Parents are reminded that Under-16s are admitted FREE to all Buccs home matches while there are reduced admission incentives for this top of the table game.

So let’s see and hear you all there!

Junior Cup derby on Friday

BUCCANEERS SECONDS square up to neighbours and keen rivals Ballinasloe at Graigueawoneen, Ballinasloe, on Friday night in the Heineken Connacht Junior Cup. Whatever the weather, the temperature is sure to be hot for this battle which gets under way at 7.30 p.m.

Ballinasloe, who play in Division 1A, can be counted on to do their utmost to ensure that home advantage pays as they entertain Buccs, who ply their trade in Division 1B. That’s two factors assisting the east Galway outfit. But the Pirates have the potential to field a side containing youth and experience capable of progressing in this Cup. Paul Harte, David Fagan, Deccie Byrne and Sean Doyle are quality players in a backline that could be boosted by Eoghan O’Reilly and Ben Carty. They have the pace and nous to unlock defences and, with Dominic Griffiths and Kevin Naughton in the mix, will ask questions of the hosts.

Of course, the Moher Road representatives will endeavour to play to their strengths, which is arguably mainly in their pack where backrowers John Hayes and Aidan Doorley can be thorns in the Pirates’ side. Front-rowers J.J.Carey and Andy O’Hara, who skippers the side, will be well-known to Buccs followers as will lock Keelan Headd. Ruaidhri Doolan is a consistent place-kicker while Cian Loughrey and David Freeman are other backs to keep an eye on.

However, Buccaneers have some formidable operators in their pack too with the Byrne brothers anchoring this unit in the second row. Trevor Thompson, Rory Grenham and possibly Saba Meunargia ahould hold their own in the trench warfare while Brendan Fagan, Cian Romaine and Niall Flynn would be a mobile and competitive backrow trio. This Buccs squad has lacked consistency and cohesion on occasion but, as shown in their most recent victory against Corrib, they are a fairly decent outfit when both backs and forwards are singing from the same hymn sheet. A repeat of that form and the Pirates can pilfer the spoils.

BAG PACKING

A big “Thank You” goes to all parents, guardians and members who volunteered their valuable time for the club’s Bag Packing over three days last week. Special thanks to all the club coaches and managers who got the word out in the search for volunteers to do shifts with particular gratitude going to the co-ordinators especially Brian Tallon, Paul Brosnan, Susan Carty, Lorna Stuart-Trainor and Geraldine Kenny. Finally, the support of the management and staff at Dunnes Stores, Irishtown, Athlone, is gratefully acknowledged.  

CONDOLENCES

Deepest sympathy is extended to Jim FitzGibbon and family on the death of his mother Eileen. Ar dheis De a anam. 

CONGRATULATIONS

Congratulations to Buccaneers teenage flanker RORY MOLONEY who captained Ireland U-19s against Australia Schools in Belfast last weekend. 

LOTTO JACKPOT €7,000

BUCCANEERS LOTTO is now €7,000, an amount that would surely solve all your Christmas shopping problems! You can enter for as little as €2 for this week’s draw which takes place in The Bounty.  Thank you to all who are supporting this venture.

SEASON’S GREETINGS

A Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year is wished to all members, players, officers, coaches, managers, volunteers, sponsors and their families.      

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