BUCCANEERS and Garryowen served up a six try thriller in which Buccs held their collective nerve to claim a 25-22 Ulster Bank League Division 1B victory at sun-soaked Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. The Pirates were worthy of the spoils for they were the more ambitious side overall and then displayed steely resolve to hold on in a frenetic finish.


Buccs Garryowen 500Both teams made changes from their opening day fixtures. Garryowen made three alterations with Buccs having five personnel plus some positional changes for this Dubarry of Ireland-sponsored match played in glorious, warm sunshine. The hosts had first benefit of a breeze that was a growing influence as the game progressed. Mark Dolan led out Buccaneers in the absence of injured captain Alex Hayman, for whom Conor FitzGibbon proved an able deputy, with Shane Layden starting at fullback. Hooker Garreth Halligan was lured back from a brief retirement with Jacob Walshe coming in at loosehead prop. Mata Fifita also made his first start at blindside flanker.

The homesters, utterly transformed from the dismal display at Malone, came hurtling out of the starting blocks and Alan Gaughan and Callum Boland almost combined in unorthodox fashion to unlock the visitors’ defence in the opening minute. It took Buccs just a further three minutes to do that after Garryowen failed to make touch with a clearance from a scrum. Rory O’Connor gathered possession on the right to launch a counter-attack that was excellently finished by FitzGibbon for an unconverted try on the left.

Virtually from the restart, Fifita secured good ball and the Pirates were swiftly raiding again where Layden deftly dummied and surged forward before off-loading to Halligan who darted in for a super 7th minute try on the left which Gaughan converted for a 12-0 lead. Four minutes later, the light blues were in trouble again but Josh O’Rourke made a rare knock-on error when closing in on the try-line.

Jamie Gavin opened Garryowen’s account with an 18th minute penalty after Buccs were guilty of not releasing but within two minutes the Limerick side repaid the compliment and Gaughan stroked the placekick over. A sublime 70 metre kick to touch by Boland (operating at outside centre) put Garryowen on the back foot again and Buccs continued to pressurise them with the impressive Fifita powering forward to force a penalty. Mark Dolan’s quick tap and go was halted just short of the line but, as Garryowen had not retreated ten metres, Gaughan drilled over the resultant penalty for an 18-3 advantage.

It could have been even worse by half-time for Garryowen as Lorcan Bourke failed to deal with a teasing Gaughan chip ahead but the home outhalf over-ran the loose ball and a gift-wrapped try against his previous club went a-begging.

Garryowen grabbed a lifeline early in the second half when James Tormey was, somewhat harshly, sin-binned after 51 minutes. Aaron McCloskey drove forward and seemed to take the wrong option when holding on to possession but the Munster side recycled possession from right to left where James Frawley got in for a try which Gavin converted. As the exchanges became more physical, Billy Henshaw had to be alert, quick and brave to avert a Garryowen score but the visitors continued to turn the screw while they had temporary numerical superiority. A quick break from the back of a 61st minute scrum was capitalised on by Barry O’Mahony for a try that narrowed the margin to 18-15.

But with Tormey back to the fray, Buccaneers again got a foothold in the opposition territory where Gaughan punted a penalty to the left. From the lineout, Buccs retained possession until Fifita rampaged hard up the middle and, from his pass, Dolan cutely out-foxed the Garryowen defence to ghost in at the posts for a 65th minute try which Gaughan converted to edge the Pirates ten points ahead.

The visitors continued to battle and Frawley somehow evaded two Buccaneers defenders in tight space to dot down for his second try in the right corner. Gavin’s fine conversion tightening the arrears to 25-22 with nine minutes remaining made the outcome as finely balanced as the build-up to the Scottish Referendum. Buccs retorted with some more good work that yielded a kickable 75th minute penalty but Gaughan’s effort against the wind lacked conviction. Garryowen finished with a determined salvo to make it a nervous finish for the home fans, but Buccs maintained their composure, discipline and workrate to the very end, eventually earning a relieving penalty. However, when Layden tapped and darted forward instead of drilling the ball into touch, it created further drama and palpitations for the Pirates before the Buccs calvary arrived in the nick of time to put the ball dead and taste victory!

This was a vastly-improved all-round performance from Buccaneers. There was a solidity and unity in a terrific team effort in which rookie O’Rourke earned the ‘AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match’ accolade. Fifita was outstanding too in a back-row collective that more than matched that of their direct opponents. Jacob Walshe had a right good tussle with J.P.Cooney in the front row where Halligan, who had just one solitary training session, donned his trusty red head-gear and rolled back the years. Gaughan made a neat contribution at fly-half and scrumhalf Dolan asked more questions than heretofore while the effervescent Eoghan O’Reilly constantly tormented the light blues when in possession. Frawley was best of the visitors’ backline while O’Mahony and McCloskey were their most effective forwards in this cracking contest.

One minute’s silence was observed before kick-off in memory of Buccaneers member John Brennan and Garryowen Juniors coach Joe Hassett who both died recently.   

BUCCANEERS:-  S.Layden; R.O’Connor, C.Boland, C.FitzGibbon, E.O’Reilly; A.Gaughan, M.Dolan (captain); J.Walshe, G.Halligan, D.Higgins; J.Tormey, J.O’Rourke; M.Fifita, K.Kiripati and L.Satchwell. Replacements:- B.Henshaw (for O’Connor, 47 mins), M.Staunton (for Higgins, 53 mins), E.Galvin (for Satchwell, 69 mins), C.Morrissey (for Halligan, 72 mins) and G.O’Connor.


GARRYOWEN:-  L.Bourke; J.Frawley, A.O’Byrne, J.McInerney, A.Wooton; J.Gavin, J.Glynn; P.O’Shea, E.Rossiter (captain), J.P.Cooney; P.McCarroll, A.McCloskey; D.Mulcair, B.O’Mahony and J.Hrstich. Replacements:- N.Cronin (for Glynn, h/t), R.Brosnan (for P’Shea, 47 mins), M.Hanrahan (for Hrstich, temporary 23/27 mins), E.Costello and F.McGibney.


REFEREE:- Oisin Quinn (Ulster).    



BUCCANEERS SECONDS had to dig deep to overcome Creggs in a keenly contested Connacht Junior 1B League tie at the Fair Green, Creggs, on Sunday. Conditions were pretty good for this game in which both teams, a bit like the All-Ireland Football final, squandered scoring opportunities. However, Buccs better balance and sharper cutting edge proved the difference on the day.

The Athlone side got a tonic start. Beginning strongly, a well worked run from deep in their own half was finished off by Harry Hughes for an unconverted try after just two minutes. Creggs struck back with a pair of penalties and the score remained unchanged for the bulk of the half as neither team could get a grip on the proceedings. David Fagan edged Buccs back in front with a penalty coming up to half-time but Creggs replied almost immediately to lead 9-8 at the break.

Buccs made a bright start to the second half too. Billy Henshaw got in for a fine try after decent team interplay with Fagan adding the conversion. Creggs then got some momentum with an unconverted try to leave just a single point between the teams at 15-14. The contest ebbed and flowed thereafter until Fagan scored an opportunist intercept try nine minutes from time to seal a 20-14 victory for Buccaneers.     




BUCCANEERS will be hoping to build on the momentum from last week’s winning performance against Garryowen when they travel to meet another legendary club powerhouse Shannon in the third round of the Ulster Bank League Division 1B in Limerick on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. (Venue Coonagh or back pitch at Thomond Park to be confirmed later in the week).


Helped by a rapid-fire start, Buccs were much more business like and buzzing last Saturday. The more experienced players stepped up to the mark and the younger brigade all contributed in an enterprising and committed all-round effort. Shannon have lost their two opening games which will make them all the more dangerous foes so the midlanders will need to maintain their focus, application and teamwork against the league specialists.

The nine-times champions are rebuilding but have some cute players in their squad, particularly in their backline where the influence of Tadhg Bennett, David O’Donovan and Dave Evans must be curbed. Niall Horan, Pat Kearns and Ruairi O’Donnell can be counted on to be competitive in the Munster side’s pack. However, if the Pirates can field again on more-or-less similar lines as against Garryowen, they can mount a successful raid on Coonagh.  


Meanwhile, Buccaneers U-20s players have a squad session at Dubarry Park on Saturday and Sunday as they prepare for their South-West Conference League kick-off the following weekend.



Buccaneers have made two innovative moves in the past week with the appointment of a lady as Chairperson of Football and the creation of a new role in adding a P.R.O. for underage rugby.

Claire Wyper, who has managed the Womens team since its inception, is entrusted with the ‘football chair’ and the gorgeous Glaswegian is well equipped for this challenging portfolio. The Youths and Minis sections have not always got the coverage their endeavours warranted and now, with a new Girls section recently formed, the time was ripe for the creation of a media representative for this growing sector of the club. Tom O’Neill, who has been involved for a number of seasons with Youths rugby, will take on this post. Here’s wishing Claire and Tom all the best in their new positions.



There was a lively buzz around Dubarry Park last Saturday morning for the now traditional Family Fun Day and Registration. A lovely day ensured a large turnout who enjoyed the fun and games that were organised. Of course, a terrific AIL game then capped the occasion with a home victory. Thank you to everyone who helped out at the event.



The Guinness Pro12 is the new name and the league table has a new look too with Connacht up there in uncharted heights following a first ever three wins from their opening three fixtures. Last Friday’s winning display against champions Leinster made terrific viewing, particularly after a poor start. But Connacht’s young squad knuckled down to the challenge and a Jack Carty’s conversion of a magnificent Kieran Marmion try was the winning score. Carty again played with composure in another tight victory. Well done, guys!


Congrats to Paul Gallogly and his bride Lisa Daly on their marriage last weekend.



Deepest sympathy is extended to Michael Ryan and extended family on the death of his mother Pauline.


Gallery: University of Galway hosts Kay Bowen Cup