BALLYNAHINCH retained their Ulster Bank League Division 1A status as they proved too strong and resourceful for a brave and wholehearted Buccaneers side when winning this promotion/relegation contest 35-13 in front of a bumper attendance at Ballymacarn Park on Saturday. It was nip and tuck in the opening half hour but a brace of home tries before half-time gave Hinch a 25-10 interval lead and thereafter the Pirates just could not manage a successful raid up North.

Injury ruled out Luke Satchwell, Mata Fifita and Tiernan O’Halloran from Buccs plans for this crunch clash in Co. Down but Jack Carty passed a late fitness test to lineout for the Pirates for whom Mark Dolan, James Tormey and Conor Kindregan were also good to start. Hinch were without flanker Paul Pritchard but captain Stuart Morrow was fit to lead from the centre. A mainly diagonal but changeable breeze on the elevated ground made it a nippy afternoon for spectating and testing for the placekickers but, otherwise, conditions were good on a dull afternoon.

David McIlwaine opened the scoring for the home side with a second minute penalty after Buccs were guilty of not releasing while Carty’s ambitious long placekick three minutes later went narrowly wide of the uprights. The outhalf then made a decent break to get a promising foothold in home territory but a knock on ended this attack. However, Buccs forced a penalty at the resultant scrum and Carty duly levelled the scores. But the Division 1B men were soon caught on the wrong side of a close-in ruck and McIlwaine converted from in front of the posts.

The opening try arrived on 18 minutes after Rodger McBurney made a strong break and off-loaded to McIlwaine who should have scored in the right corner but he was nailed by a terrific covering tackle as he show-boated. However, the Ulstermen recycled possession right to left and skipper Morrow finished off the move with McIlwaine’s conversion giving the hosts a 13-3 advantage. McIlwaine had a rare miss with a penalty three minutes later.

Buccs responded positively with a splendid Carty double break and his inviting grubber kick was fastened onto by Shane Layden who popped up on the right for a 28th minute try converted by Carty to tighten the arrears to 13-10.  However, Danny Qualter was injured in the build-up to this score and the imposing lock’s absence was a significant blow for the midlanders.  

Hinch retorted within four minutes and again McBurney made ground much too easily through the visitors’ defence after he collected a garryowen and the fullback was on hand to finish off this swift counter-attack for a try converted by McIlwaine. Buccs prop Diarmuid Higgins was flagged in this move and, consequently, sin binned, which the hosts soon capitalised on. The impressive McBurney powered forward down the right flank for a 38th minute try that gave Ballynahinch a solid 25-10 lead at half-time.

Although the breeze was sometimes unpredictable, Buccaneers would have the primary benefit of it for the second period. However, within a minute of the restart, McIlwaine added a penalty but Carty replied with a placekick five minutes later to keep the Athlone side in contention. They piled on the pressure in the third quarter but without reward, lacking the composure and sheer physical strength to unlock a highly committed and organised Hinch defensive effort that was occasionally stretched. Kindregan twice and Kolo Kiripati came closest during this dominant spell by the midlanders as they strove to get reward for their gritty endeavours. The homesters were forced to concede a number of penalties, notably when Aaron Cairns was yellow carded on 56 minutes for deliberately handling the ball out of play behind his right corner flag.

Hinch then took the wind out of the Pirates sails six minutes later with a slice of good fortune. A Buccs pass went forward and straight into touch but, although referee Sean Gallagher seemed to indicate a scrum, the northerners caught the midlanders off-guard when quickly throwing in the ball to McIwaine on his own 22 and he romped away unchallenged to complete his hat-trick of tries. This was disastrous and deflated Buccaneers’ challenge but, in reality, the cause was looking lost at that stage. His conversion completed the scoring as a forward pass to David McGuigan ruled out his late dive over the visitors’ line.

Ballynahinch were the sharper, better drilled and hungrier outfit on the day with a superior cutting edge, and they were full value for their win that ensures an Ulster team will again compete next season in the highest division of club rugby in Ireland. Fullback McBurney and right wing McIlwaine were a constant menace and they accounted for Hinch’s quartet of tries. Openside flanker McGuigan was highly influential and Kyle McCall was best of the home front row.

Buccs, who did not truly perform to their potential, paid dearly for far too many missed tackles on the day while they will also rue spurned opportunities. They tried their utmost from promising start to bitter end and cannot be faulted for effort. Carty was pick of the Pirates backline while rookie Evan Galvin came of age in the forwards exchanges but a dearth of experience and strength in depth limited options as much as a lack of ruthlessness and sheer grunt for Buccaneers. Nevertheless, the squad gave of their best for most of an enjoyable and rewarding season’s action and they can work towards going one better next year when a primarily youthful panel is more seasoned and wiser.

Footnote:- Everyone involved with Buccaneers RFC wishes to thank all the players and mentors for their efforts during the season and thanks also to the substantial number of supporters who travelled to Co. Down on Saturday.

BALLYNAHINCH:-  R.McBurney; D.McIlwaine, S.Morrow (captain), M.Arneill, R.Harte; H.McAleese, A.Cairns; K.McCall, J.Murphy, C.Taylor; K.Morton, J.Simpson; N.Faloon, D.McGuigan and M.Graham. Replacements:- J.Madden (for McGuigan, 24 mins), D.McGuigan (for Madden, 34 mins), J.Madden (for Simpson, 50 mins), S.Orr (for Taylor, 56 mins),  J.McBriar (for Faloon, 62 mins),  N.Faloon (for McBriar, 67 mins), A.Ferris (for Morrow, 70 mins), M.Nelson (for Murphy, 70 mins), and J.McBriar (for Cairns, 73 mins).

BUCCANEERS:-  C.Boland; B.Henshaw, C.Finn, A.Hayman (captain), S.Layden; J.Carty, M.Dolan; M.Staunton, G.Halligan, D.Higgins; J.Tormey, D.Qualter; C.Kindregan, E.Galvin and K.Kiripati. Replacements:- R.Byrne (for Qualter, inj. 28 mins), J.Walshe (for Kindregan, 34 mins), C.Kindregan (for Walshe, 44 mins), J.Walshe (for Staunton, 50 mins), E.O’Reilly (for Henshaw, 64 mins), B.Carty (for Hayman, 65 mins),  B.Henshaw (for Boland, inj. 67 mins), and B.Teape (for Higgins, 75 mins).

Referee:- Sean Gallagher (IRFU).   


BUCCANEERS captured a sixth provincial trophy for the club this season when defeating Monivea 46-14 in the Connacht U-19 Plate final at Loughrea on Friday night. Buccs were on top from the very start, scoring the first of their eight tries after a mere 30 seconds. They were simply too hot for their opponents but Monivea are to be credited with battling on as they salvaged some pride with a try in each half.

Weather conditions were dry with a light crossfield breeze. On a tight pitch that was firm and undulating, Buccs got off to the proverbial flyer as Monivea spilled the ball forward from the Athlone side’s kick off and Ross Flanagan swooped possession and Ricky Dixon sniped around the side of a ruck for the opening try in the corner. Charlie McMickan added a fine touchline conversion. This quickly settled Buccs into their stride and they added their second try after just 8 minutes. Swift recycling of the ball and fast hands put Harry Hughes in for a try out wide.

The third try arrived before the quarter-hour mark and followed a barnstorming break by Cian Romaine from his own 10 metre line. He fended off four defenders before being stopped just short of the Monivea line but the ball was moved to the left where Sean Doyle got the touchdown. The fourth try came just seven minutes later with good ball retention in the Monivea 22 before Conor McGrath finished off with a clear run in to the right corner for a 22-0 lead. Buccs were less clinical from there to the interval, enabling Monivea come back in to the game and the Co. Galway lads were rewarded in the last move of the half when Niall Keane found a gap in the middle of the park and raced forward for a try under the posts. The conversion saw Monivea trailing 22-7 at the break.

Following a lineout on the Monivea 10 metre line five minutes after the change of ends, Buccs played the ball off the top and scrumhalf Dixon sniped through the middle of the lineout to dart in for a try in the corner. Buccs went patiently through the phases from their own half up to the Monivea 22 before the ball was spun wide to Sean Doyle who careered through for a try at the posts which McMickan converted. Monivea were then unable to deal with a hard running line by Sean Dempsey and the sturdy Buccs centre broke through from forty metres out for Buccs seventh try. Monivea continued to roll up their collective sleeves and got some reward when Darragh Maher exploited a gap in the Buccs midfield for a try ten minutes before the finish. But Buccs had the last say in the final minute when, after fine recycling inside the westerners’ 22, Conal O’Brien surged over to the left of the posts to complete the 46-14 scoreline.

This Buccaneers squad has had a frustrating season in respect of fixtures but displayed their terrific potential on this occasion. They were on top from start to finish with centres Doyle and Dempsey posing a formidable pairing. Cillian Walsh and the immensely versatile Conor Morrissey played key roles in the pack where Daniel Kiely put in a man of the match contribution.

BUCCANEERS:-   H.Hughes; B.Gilligan, S.Doyle, S.Dempsey, T.Finucane; C.McMickan, R.Dixon; C.Walsh, O.Rowe, C.McGrath; C.O’Brien, C.Romaine; D.Kiely, R.Flanagan and C.Morrissey. Replacements:- C.Irwin, B.Kennedy, B.Pears, N.Conway, K.O’Donnell and S.Chitsatso.

MONIVEA:-  M.Mills; S.Connolly, N.Keane, D.McMahon, Cathal Mannion; Ciaran Mannion, C.Forde; D.Costello, R.Kelly, M.McDonnell; K.Lyons, D.Ryan; E.Maher, D.Maher and J.O’Brien. Replacements:- K.Kilgannon, K.Kelly, T.Feerick, J.Quinn, R.O’Connor and D.Maher.


BUCCANEERS ANNUAL AWARDS EVENT takes place in The Bounty on this Friday, May 9th, beginning at 7.30 p.m. The Player of the Year awards winners from U-19s up to Senior will be unveiled on the night with the Buccaneers Club Person of the Year (who will be presented with the Michael Hanley Memorial Perpetual Cup) also being named at the event. Connacht Cup and League medals will be presented to the victorious Thirds, U-20 and U-19 squads respectively.

Seven Buccaneers players played on eight Ireland teams during the season and specially commissioned pieces of Athlone Crystal will be presented to them on the night. The club is extremely proud of these players who are:-

Ireland Senior                                     ROBBIE HENSHAW

Ireland U-20                                        JACOB WALSHE

Ireland U-20                                        RORY MOLONEY

Ireland U-19                                        RORY MOLONEY

Ireland U-19                                        CIAN ROMAINE

Ireland Womens Elite Sevens         NIAMH Ni DHROMA

Ireland U-18 Clubs                             COLIN KENNY

Ireland U-18 Schools                         CONOR KENNY

Guests will enjoy a 3-course meal + wine, with music following the presentations ceremony. Smart dress! Tickets can be purchased from our Administrator Geraldine 0861732711 during office hours (9 am to 3 pm daily) or by calling to The Bounty. Cost is only €25 per head which is real value. It promises to be a thoroughly enjoyable occasion, so let’s see a full house on Friday night.

Meanwhile, congratulations to Jack Carty, Mark Dolan and Rory Moloney on winning the Connacht Academy, Senior Club and U-19 Player of the Year awards respectively. Best of luck to Rory, who has been selected on the Ireland U-20 squad for next month’s Junior World Cup which takes place in New Zealand.


The Youths and Minis sections of the club are holding their annual SPONSORED CYCLE on this Saturday afternoon, followed by their end of season party when the Underage Player of the Year awards will be presented by ROBBIE HENSHAW. The Sponsored Cycle commences the day’s activities and it heads off on a 5k route around Coosan at 12 noon. Sponsorship Cards have been issued to all youth players so let’s hope they get decent support.



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