A SPARKLING PERFORMANCE by Buccaneers in the opening half of their rescheduled Ulster Bank League game against Belfast Harlequins sent them on their way to a 39-22 Division 1B victory at sunny Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Saturday. On a firm surface, two understrength teams endeavoured to play at tempo resulting in ten tries amid the feast of scores for those tempted away from their armchair rugby.


Both sides were depleted and gave youth its chance with Ben Carty making his AIL debut at outhalf for the Pirates in place of elder brother Jack who was skippering Connacht Eagles. Dominic Griffith came into a much-changed backline on the wing while Castelbar’s Shane Casey made his first start for Buccs in the backrow. Lawrence Babe captained the visitors who too were missing their contracted players.

Buccs secured a bonus point in the first half during which they scored four tries, Luke Satchwell opening their account when he provided the overlap to finish off enterprising play with just three and a half minutes on the clock. The flanker was injured shortly afterwards with another U-21 Paul Maxwell coming in. Buccs showed another side to their play with a superb maul being finished by AUDI ATHLONE Man of the Match Martin Staunton for their second try on 21 minutes. This stemmed from a smashing penalty to touch on the left by Carty and a clean lineout take by James Tormey who, five minutes later, charged through for a try following good ground made by Kolo Kiripati and Alex Hayman. The sterling Hayman grabbed try number four after 33 minutes following more enterprising work by the homesters. With Casey tidying up a rare Quins attack on the home line, Callum Boland’s penalty and conversion gave the midlanders a solid 25-0 halftime lead.

Rob Creighton intercepted near halfway within a minute of the change of ends to grab a try at the posts and John Holmes converted to give Quins hope of a comeback and Buccs had to defend robustly for a period to force a relieving penalty. This was kicked downfield to touch where Tormey soared to claim the lineout possession to set up Hayman’s touchdown for his second try on 53 minutes. Boland’s conversion made it 32-7 on the scoreboard.

Casey incurred a harsh yellow card at a ruck on the hour mark while Boland saw a fine 65th penalty effort rebound off an upright following a flagging. Hayman ghosted through midfield three minutes later but, for once, support was slow in arriving. With their bench unloaded, Buccs’ cohesion and organisation dropped a little but the scores remained unchanged until a hectic final six minutes in which four tries were scored. Roger Kirkwood scored what seemed a consolation try for the northerners after 76 minutes but it galvanised them to notch two more in rapid fire succession! Fullback Holmes then surged through three minutes later and, within a minute, substitute Michael Scholes was haring in for another to earn Quins an unlikely bonus point as the midlanders lost concentration and solidity.  

However, Buccs had the final say when, straight from the restart, Kolo Kiripati thundered through for Buccs sixth try (all of which were scored in the left corner!) and teenager Carty added an excellent touchline conversion to complete the 39-22 scoreline, which could have been even higher had placekickers for both teams been fully on song, for a richly merited victory that keeps the Athlone club in fourth place in the league table. Staunton was superb and Casey made a terrific impact. Hayman is enjoying a majestic season, Boland excited and Carty settled well into his role after a nervous opening. 

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Boland; B.Henshaw, C.FitzGibbon, A.Hayman, D.Griffith; B.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, D.Higgins; J.Tormey, R.Byrne; S.Casey, L.Satchwell and K.Kiripati (captain). Replacements:- P.Maxwell (for Satchwell, inj. 9 mins), J.Roets (for Higgins, 48 mins), B.Digby (for Dolan, 55 mins), B.Teape (for Staunton, 69 mins), T.Clifford (for Boland, 71 mins) and D.Higgins (for Tormey, inj. 71 mins).


BELFAST HARLEQUINS:-  J.Holmes; R.Creighton, M.Ryan, W.Stewart, M.Holmes; M.Best, R.Kirkwood; P.Greenaway, T.Fraser, N.Simpson; P.Rea, A.Heatlie; K.Adams, K.McCombe and L.Babe (captain). Replacements:- D.McRitchie (for Rea, inj. 29 mins), M.Scholes (for M.Holmes, 46 mins), A.Pollock (for McCombe, 46 mins), O.McIlmurray (for Simpson, 48 mins) and N.Simpson (for Greenaway, 60 mins).


Referee:- Kieran Barry (IRFU).   


League final woe for Buccs




For the second successive match, Buccaneers Thirds suffered the cruel fate of losing through the final kick of the game when Corinthians landed a penalty to claim the Connacht Junior 2 League title on an 11-8 scoreline at Crowley Park, Galway, on Sunday. It was an even enough decider with a biting crossfield breeze and rock hard surface making it an endurance test for players and spectators alike but Corinthians had that little bit of unpredictability about them that perhaps warranted this hard-earned triumph.


Buccs started with the same XV pipped so agonisingly by Tuam in the semi-final before Tuam were deemed to have fielded an illegal player. The conditions ensured for a nervy and sometimes scrappy contest. Corinthians had the better of the opening exchanges with the slope and the diagonal breeze assisting them. David Dunning did well to tidy up in front of his posts after 9 minutes while the Galway club had Kieran Dolan yellow carded for slowing the ball six minutes later. Yet they took the lead on 19 minutes when Jack Campbell slotted over a penalty. Buccs came more into the game in the second quarter and Keith O’Neill got over the Corinthians line but a knock-on in the build up meant no try was awarded.

Darren Costello was off-target with a 25th minute penalty but made no mistake four minutes later to level the scores. Buccs were now enjoying the better of the exchanges but, following a penalty kicked to the left, the Pirates lost possession when a promising maul looked likely to reap the dividend of a try. In the final minute, a clever crossfield kick was just too high for Ger Fallon and the sides were tied 3-3 at the interval.

Following a penalty five minutes into the second half, Buccs surged forward from the subsequent lineout and Keith Grehan drove over in the right corner for a well-taken try but O’Neill’s conversion attempt was weak. It seemed like the midlanders would now build on this impetus but their line-kicking was poor and they did not pen Corinthians back enough. Eleven minutes later, Dolan conjured up a clever blindside try, his break catching the Buccs defence napping. His conversion attempt went narrowly wide but the teams were level again at 8-8.

At the end of the third quarter, Dunning got in a great block on Dolan to force a penalty but Costello’s kick was woeful while, four minutes later, Dolan was off-target at the other end. But the winger went from villain to hero in the final flurry which saw Buccs veteran fullback O’Neill incur a red card for retaliation and Dolan administered further punishment when his penalty kick from the right just scrambled over the crossbar to clinch a dramatic title win for Corinthians. This victory was savoured by the victors whose only league defeat had been at the hands of Buccs. Meanwhile, the Pirates can take great credit for a wonderful league campaign but, on this occasion, though they fought to the bitter end and put in a massive effort, they did not harness the elements as well as the winners and lacked the guile and craft of Corinthians for whom ‘man of the match’ Dolan’s elusive running was a constant torment for Buccs. Nicky Purcell and Sean Flynn were best of Buccs backline while Dunning, Liam Doran, Tristan Couper and Sean Byrne could not be faulted in the forwards battle.

BUCCANEERS:- K.O’Neill; D.Smith, M.Tormey, S.Flynn, G.Fallon; D.Costello, N.Purcell; T.Thompson, K.Grehan, L.Doran; G.Glynn (captain), D.Dunning; N.Flynn, T.Couper and S.Byrne. Replacements:- M.Turley (for Glynn, inj. 63 mins), P.Rikadze (for Thompson, 63 mins) and D.Kelly (for Tormey, 63 mins).


CORINTHIANS:-  C.Egan; S.Quinlan, A.Quinn, C.Conway, K.Dolan; W.Casserly, J.Campbell; D.Broderick, J.Barrett, D.Grealish; N.Hogan, E.Coyle; K.Ryan, C.O’Driscoll and L.Naughton.


Referee:-  Peter McCarthy (Connacht).


Buccs edge into U-19 Cup final




BUCCANEERS held on for a narrow 13-11 Connacht U-19 Cup semi-final victory away to Galwegians at Crowley Park on Sunday. With Buccs facing Bandon in next Saturday’s All-Ireland semi-final, their mentors took a calculated gamble on resting some players — and just got away with it!

The improvised Buccs side kicked off and promptly reclaimed possession to spread the ball wide and Sean Doyle steamed over the home line for a try in just 30 seconds. Due to all the changes in personnel, the young Pirates were understandably lacking co-ordination but they were certainly not shy about hard work and industry. Barry Goode kicked a penalty while Wegians landed two placekicks as Buccs led 8-6 at halftime.

Early in the second half, Tom Finucane broke from near halfway to score an excellent try. Wegians replied with a try to leave just two points between the teams. In a finely balanced contest, the hosts had a real opportunity to grab a late, late victory but they missed a final minute penalty. So fortune favoured the brave on this occasion with Evan Galvin and Ross Moony-Enraght putting in wonderful shifts in the Buccs pack while Finucane and Goode stood out in the backline.

BUCCANEERS:-  E.O’Reilly; T.Finucane, C.Langdon, S.Dempsey, M.O’Reilly; S.Doyle, B.Goode; S.Gallagher, C.McGrath, J.O’Meara; C.Morrissey, C.White; P.Hennessy, R.Moony-Enraght and E.Galvin. Replacements used:- J.Gormley, S.Flanagan, C.McMickan and B.Carty.


Womens brave season ends




BUCCANEERS WOMENS TEAM bowed out of the Leinster Womens Cup when they were defeated by Railway Union 35-17 in a hugely entertaining quarter-final in Dublin on Sunday but the Athlone ladies can hold their collective heads high after really testing Railway Union. The metropolitans fielded a much more experienced squad, some with a very high level particularly their scrumhalf, but the Buccettes really put it up to Union in an enthralling contest.


Buccs made two changes from their previous outing with the versatile Myriam Borque-Cascajo starting at scrum-half and Colette McSpadden coming in at centre. On a dry but breezy afternoon, the hosts had first benefit of the sea breeze and moved 10-0 ahead before Buccs opened their account with an Emma Treanor penalty. Union added a second converted try before Sinead Taylor powered forward from midfield to score a magnificent try which Treanor converted. Although Union added a penalty, Buccs were very much in this contest at half-time despite trailing 20-10.

The midlanders had loads of possession and territory following the change of ends but conceded some silly infringements to take the pressure off Union who retorted with an unconverted try. However, Borque-Cascajo caught the home side napping when she smartly tapped a penalty and raced in from the 22 for a try which Treanor converted to keep Buccs in the hunt, just 25-17 adrift. The Athlone girls piled on more pressure but lacked the guile to outwit the homesters who got the benefit of a wicked bounce to secure a decisive late try. This was converted as was a penalty for a 35-17 margin that did not do true justice to the endeavours of Buccaneers.

They gave a really good account of themselves on the day and indeed throughout this competition, which will be of enormous benefit to them. A lack of experience and a failure to make the most of the elements in the second half is all that separated the two teams. Emer Phelan and Annemarie Sleator excelled in the pack with Niamh Ni Dhroma and Borque-Cascajo (although playing out of position) pick of the backline in a spirited performance. Well done to all players and mentors on another memorable season. Pity that Connacht did not see fit to “invite” them to defend their Connacht Cup crown!    

BUCCANEERS:-  N.Ni Dhroma; A.Kelleher, C.McSpadden, S.Taylor, N.Gough; E.Treanor, M.Borque-Cascajo; C.Mannion, M.Kiripati (captain), A.M.Sleator; C.Moore, N.Egan; S.O’Shea, E.Conlon and E.Phelan. Replacements used:- S.Hynds, Y.O’Shea and L.Stuart-Trainor.



BUCCANEERS play their final home game of this season’s Ulster Bank League when they host Ballymena at Dubarry Park on Saturday night. This floodlit game, sponsored by Glasson Country House Hotel & Golf Club, has a 7 p.m. kickoff.

Ballymena, a club steeped in rugby tradition and history, have had a torrid season. The one time All-Ireland League winners currently lie in last place with just two wins to date. However, one of those victories was in their most recent fixture when they defeated Bruff, who are now above Ballymena only on scoring difference. Both trail third from bottom Dungannon by ten points with just three rounds of fixtures remaining. Consequently, the Braidmen are in dire need of league points but they now travel with a ray of hope of avoiding automatic relegation and Buccs will be prudent to be wary. However, the Pirates should possess too much class and enterprise and, if they move the ball with pace, they can keep on the heels of the leading trio.



BUCCANEERS square up to Bandon in the semi-final of the U-19 All-Ireland Cup at Galway Sportsground on Saturday, kick off 2.30 p.m. Buccs captured this Cup just two seasons ago and the current crop of rising stars will be keen to advance to the final in Naas. However, they will surely face a searching test from this year’s Munster kingpins from the home town of Graham Norton.

This is a well-balanced Buccs squad although perhaps lacking a bit of height in the pack. With Jacob Walshe unavailable, John Gormley, Scott Flanagan, John O’Meara, Conor McGrath and Saba Meunargia will be battling for starting berths in the front row. Josh O’Rourke, Cian White and Niall Carr are vying at lock while Ross Moony-Enraght put his hand up last Sunday for inclusion in the backrow where Evan Galvin, Brian Cooper and Conor Morrissey have strong claims to start. Scrumhalf Rob Ashe is the team’s only injury worry with Barry Goode a likely replacement if necessary. Ben Carty has the nous and skills to control matters at fly-half as well as being a prodigious place-kicker. The two Seans — Dempsey and Doyle — could form the centre partnership but Conor Langdon’s inclusion would not weaken this sector. Harry Hughes is a try-poacher supreme while Rob McMickan or Mark O’Reilly are very able operators on the other flank. Eoghan O’Reilly is a solid, attack-minded fullback so, all in all, this a pretty rounded band of Pirates.

Bandon claimed the scalps of Bruff and Sundays Well with home advantage but doled out a good beating to Highfield in the Munster final so they will pose a stiff test. However, Buccs too had a solid Connacht final win. Semi-finals are notorious, particularly as neither team wants to miss out at the penultimate hurdle. But, if Buccs play to their collective strengths, hold their nerve and keep both focus and discipline, then their experience of the Sportsground can be a vital ingredient against the boys from west Cork. They are certainly worthy of supporters taking the now short trip west along the motorway so let’s see and hear a big crowd cheering on these young Buccs.  



BUCCANEERS THIRDS get a swift opportunity to shake off the disappointment of losing the league final through the last kick of the decider when they host Tuam in the Ard-Na-Cregg Cup at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday. This could be a hotly-contested affair as Tuam pipped Buccs in the league semi-final only to be eliminated from that competition due to fielding an illegal player in Athlone. Both sides were evenly matched two weeks ago, the Galway club stronger in the pack but Buccs more expansive out wide. The Pirates lacked a killer instinct in their two most recent matches but there is decent quality and potency in their squad and, if the players deliver to their capabilities and perform with a bit more “hardness”, then they can advance. The action here gets under way at 3 p.m.

AIL fixtures rescheduled

Buccaneers concluding fixtures of the Ulster Bank League have been redrawn somewhat due to recent postponements. Buccs defeated Belfast Harlequins last Saturday in a rearranged game while they play Ballymena as scheduled next Saturday night at 7 p.m. The postponed game away to champions elect Ballynahinch will now take place on Saturday, April 20th, with the fixtures of that week being put back to April 27th when Buccs travel to Bruff.



Deepest sympathy is extended to Jude Lennon and family on the death of his sister Joan Sheehy.



Congrats to Saba Meunargia and Jacob Walshe on their recent caps for Ireland U-19s against England and France. Well done too to David Heffernan, Conor Finn, Mata Fifita, Peter Reilly and Jack Carty who all played for Connacht Eagles against crack Russian club Enesei STM. Carty captained this A team. Incidentally, Connacht Eagles will complete their British & Irish Cup campaign when they entertain Welsh club Newport at Dubarry Park on Saturday, April 27th.



Gallery: HT minis – Ballinrobe, Ballyhaunis, Corinthians and Dunmore