BUCCANEERS THIRDS avenged last season’s cruel Connacht J2 League defeat when they proved too strong and resourceful for holders Corinthians in a well-contested final at Ballinasloe on Sunday when the Athlone representatives came out on top by 17-6. A fresh sunny afternoon, decent pitch and a fine attendance provided the backdrop for a game that was a fitting climax to the league.

With the wind and sun to their backs, Corinthians made the brighter start but found the Buccs defence in uncompromising mood. The Pirates then got some territory and a sniping raid by Nick Purcell was finished off with determination and no little skill by Peadar Hennessy for a 7th minute try which Glen Costello converted. This score settled the midlanders and it took the holders until the 18th minute to get on the scoreboard with a penalty. The Galway side enjoyed the greater territory in this half but Buccs always looked threatening on the break with the wiry Hennessy a particular thorn in the side of the Tribesmen. Buccaneers would have been the better pleased at halftime, having coped well with the vaunted Corinthians backline while the Pirates pack dominance in the set-pieces was becoming more pronounced, when they led 7-3.

But the team facing the elements again got the early score following the change of ends, Corinthians drilling over a 42nd minute penalty, brought closer following dissent from the challengers’ ranks. Game certainly on now! Jack O’Connor lacked swift support in a promising raid while a deft dink by Darren Costello and follow up by Ger Fallon forced Corinthians to concede a lineout near the right corner flag but Buccs did not profit. Meanwhile, the Pirates had a let off when the Corinthians full-back sallied past a number of tacklers up the right flank but a foot in touch ruled out a try in this lively tussle.

But Buccaneers pressure was steadily growing and Darren Costello dropped a very tidy goal just after the hour mark and he was just off-target with a long-range penalty shortly afterwards.  Man of the match Hennessy ripped the ball from Corinthians hands after 73 minutes and careered forward before giving a deft offload in the tackle to Purcell who finished off with aplomb for a try at the posts. Darren Costello, who saw a second drop goal attempt tail wide, converted to put the game beyond Corinthians. Buccs looked like adding to their try tally before the finish but just could not unlock a beleaguered Corinthians rearguard. Nevertheless, the 17-6 winning margin was sweet atonement following last year’s final kick defeat as Buccaneers captured a title not won by the club since Athlone in 1991.

Buccaneers were relentless in their quest for glory, best typified by the perpetual industry of young No.8 Hennessy, U-18 Player of theYear two seasons ago. Brian Teape was terrific in a spirited front row with Keith Grehan and Martin Lyons. Outhalf Costello continually put Corinthians on the back foot with booming kicks in the second half. O’Connor and Purcell were other backs to shine in what was a really fine all-round team display by Buccaneers as Corinthians, who chopped and changed their backline, suffered a fate similar to their conquerors in that their only loss was in the final.

BUCCANEERS:- G.Costello; G.Fallon, J.O’Connor, C.Langan, M.Tormey; D.Costello (captain), N.Purcell; K.Grehan, M.Lyons, B.Teape; G.Glynn, V.McGrath; K.Kennedy, N.Hyland and P.Hennessy. Replacements:- R.Sweeney (for Tormey), C.Galvin (for Kennedy), J.Shaughnessy (for Fallon) and C.Shanley (for Grehan).

REFEREE:- Tom Horkan (Connacht).



The Jes reach last four with last minute winner