BUCCANEERS 21 SLIGO 19

10 points down with 4 minutes to play, Buccaneers executed a ‘smash and grab’ to snatch Connacht Senior League glory when defeating Sligo 21-19 at well-attended Dubarry Park on Saturday.

The visitors led from the 7th minute until Danny Qualter’s final move of the game try wrestled their dreams of adding to their solitary Senior League title from them in a thrilling climax to an absorbing duel worthy of the occasion.

Buccaneers made three changes from the side whose win at Corinthians ensured that this contest would be a winner takes all affair. Qualter’s availability, in place of Ryan O’Meara whose injury in that win ruled him out, was a big lift to the home pack. Shane Layden returned too in the centre with Eoin O’Reilly starting at scrumhalf. Playing conditions on a warm, bright afternoon were ideal for this much-anticipated joust.

The north-westerners were not phased by the occasion and, with their bigger pack imposing themselves on the proceedings, they worked their way into the home half where Darragh Feehily finished off this fine build-up play for a 7th minute try on the right with Euan Brown adding the conversion.

Ten minutes later it got even better for Sligo, who won this title for the first time just two seasons ago. Not for the first time in the contest, the Pirates had made promising headway but were turned over by aggressive Sligo defending. This forced a hurried Buccs pass which Calum Goddard intercepted and he hared along the stand side and seemed certain to score until Saul O’Carroll somehow made up considerable ground to halt his progress. However, the supporting Brown picked out Daire Byrne with a pinpoint crossfield kick and the outhalf’s conversion of Byrne’s try gave the hoops a 14-0 advantage before the end of the opening quarter.

It looked like getting even worse for the midlanders when Finn Bamber raced through to touchdown on 23 minutes but a touch-judge flagged an off the ball incident and a Buccaneers penalty was the outcome, with Michael Hanley opening the home side’s account with the resultant placekick.

End to end rugby continued to the interval with Hanley slotting over his second penalty with the final kick to reduce the Shannonsiders arrears to 14-6.

Matters became much brighter for the hosts following the change of ends. Sligo’s hooker Shane O’Hehir was sin-binned for cumulative penalties by his side and dissent then brought the resultant penalty ten metres forward with Hanley drilling over the placekick just three minutes into the second period.

Buccs were now making better inroads through their backline and Orrin Burgess made a splendid charge upfield where Bamber was guilty of slowing possession illegally and incurring a yellow card for his efforts. Buccs now with a 2-player advantage camped in the Sligo 22 for a spell but errors hampered their endeavours, letting the visitors off the hook.

It was depleted Sligo who scored next. Brown thumped a long ball downfield to ease the mounting pressure on his side but Burgess was too leisurely clearing his lines. The young back was blocked down and Brown was swiftest to react and notch an opportunist unconverted try. This gave Sligo a 19-9 advantage with the game now in the final quarter.

Both sides were ringing the changes at this stage and the Athlone outfit bench made the difference.

With the stadium clock ticking towards 80 minutes (but several minutes still to be played due to stoppages) Buccaneers won a Sligo lineout throw on the right.

The ball was moved crisply to Layden who charged forward, making big yardage before he sent O’Carroll scampering away for a splendid try on the left. Hanley matched the score with a fine penalty and now the arrears was down to 2 points.

Buccs now threw everything at the north-westerners who were wilting in the face of the sustained defensive work they had put in and the Pirates increased intensity. Composed and tidy interplay by the Athlonians eventually stretched Sligo to breaking point and a smashing pass to the left found Qualter in acres of space and the powerful No.8 romped through for the winning try.

Hanley was unable to add this conversion but it mattered not, as Buccaneers claimed their 13th Senior League title with their stirring climax.

It was tough to take for the visitors who led for so long. However, they can be proud of their contribution to a thrilling decider and if they maintain this form they can anticipate a good season in the AIL. Brown and Kuba Wojtkowicz were their standout contributors.

BUCCANEERS:- R.Fallon; O.Burgess, S.Layden, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; M.Hanley, E.O’Reilly; M.Staunton (captain), D.Browne, S.O’Connell; R.Byrne, F.Galvin; C.McCann, G.Daly and D.Qualter. Replacements:- F.McDonnell (for McCann, inj. 27 mins), J.Kelly (for O’Connell, 47 mins), C.Daly (for Browne, 60 mins), T.Shine (for Fallon, 60 mins), A.Flanagan (for O’Reilly, 60 mins) and S.O’Connell (for Staunton, 70 mins).

SLIGO:- E.Gavin; C.Goddard, F.Bamber, D.Byrne, D.Feehily; E.Brown, B.Cunningham; M.Earley, S.O’Hehir, T.Gormley; E.Ryan, C.Trimble; K.Wojtkowicz, J.O’Hehir and J.East (captain). Replacements:- B.West (for T.Gormley, inj. 29 mins), J.Gormley (for Trimble, h/t), M.Rooney (for Goddard, 44 mins), C.Trimble (for J.Gormley, 58 mins), B.Hynes (for S.O’Hehir, 70 mins) and A.Ward (for Cunningham, 70 mins).

Buccaneers and Sligo square up at Dubarry Park on Saturday with the Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League title at stake in this winner takes all final round fixture which kicks off at 2.30 p.m.

This comes after the Midland’s Club got the better of Corinthians last weekend via a 10-24 scoreline. Ryan O’Meara got the scoring underway for Buccs after some strong forward play, while Ruaidhri Fallon and Cian McCann also touched down for The Pirates.

Last weekend’s other Connacht Senior League game saw Galwegians finish their campaign with a 20-12 victory over Ballina. An excellent performance from Darragh Kennedy inspired the Galway side.

The full-back put in an immense kicking performance, as well as crossing the line for a try of his own. Karl Waterman also crossed the line via an excellent intercept try, atoning for his earlier yellow card.

There were two games played in the Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League last weekend, with Ballina hosting Buccaneers and Galwegians travelling to Sligo.

Up until these fixtures, both Sligo and Galwegians were undefeated in this year’s tournament.

Something had to give, and it was the team from Yeats County who got the better on the day via a scoreline of 16-7. They were worthy of their win, with Shane O’Hehir and Rob Holian both crossing the line for the home side.

The other game saw Buccaneers inspired by a quartet of tries from Saul O’Carroll in their 51-14 victory over Ballina.

In the Bank of Ireland Cawley Cup, Creggs bounced back from an opening day defeat to get the better of Dunmore.

An early red card left the County Galway side with a mountain to climb, and Creggs took full advantage, coming away with the 10-20 win.

There was also action in the Bank of Ireland Curley Cup, with Carrick On Shannon impressing on their way to a 41-17 victory against Sligo 2nd XV, and Loughrea getting the better of OLBC on a scoreline of 26-0.

Claremorris Colts got over the line against Ballina in their Curley Cup game this weekend. That game finished 31-26.

And although Galwegians came out the wrong side of the scoreline in the Connacht Senior League, their Curley Cup side did manage to get the better of Oughterard. That game finished 26-14.

The Bank of Ireland Cawley Cup returned this weekend, signifying the start of a new season for some of Connacht’s club sides.

Pool A

Pool A saw Buccaneers 2nd XV travel to nearby Creggs, while Castlebar hosted Dunmore.

Buccaneers 2nds looked too strong for their near neighbours, racing into a 16-0 lead at the break. Creggs did manage to get a try on the board, but it was too little, too late, as the visitors travelled back to Athlone with a 21 points to spare.

The other game saw Castlebar prove their worth against Dunmore. The first half was a tentative affair, with the Mayo side going into the break just a point up at 6-5.

After both sides scored two tries, kicking proved the difference as Castlebar ran out 20-12 victors.

Pool B

On a fantastic day for rugby, Connemara welcomed Westport to Clifden for their first game of the season on Sunday. Both sides showed excellent attacking talent throughout, with the Connemara All Blacks eventually coming out on top of a 29-15 scoreline.

Group B’s other game was a Galway derby, as Monivea hosted Tuam.

Here the away side proved to be dominant throughout, scoring eight tries on their way to a 5-48 win. In what was one of the performances of the weekend, Ian Murphy touched down for a hat trick of tries for the visitors.

Eddie O’Sullivan has been appointed Head Coach at Buccaneers RFC.

This is a significant signing by the Athlone club who recently gained promotion to Division 1B of the Energia All-Ireland League following a dramatic play-off final victory over hot favourites Queen’s University in Belfast.

O’Sullivan returns to the club he steered to the ‘old’ Division One in 1997/98 and he helmed the Pirates to a Top Four finish the following season before Ireland came calling for his services just weeks before the commencement of the ensuing season. His return to Dubarry Park will be seen as a major coup for and signal of intent by the Midlanders.

O’Sullivan, well renowned and highly respected for his coaching with the Ireland and USA Senior squads, is “delighted to be back and involved again at Buccaneers. I enjoyed my time there previously and I believe there is a young but highly talented group with rich potential at Buccs to further develop”.

Club President Billy McMickan is equally enthusiastic believing he is “a coach who can get the most out of their promising squad of eager and willing players”. Working with club’s coaches, Eddie will oversee all Seniors rugby including U-20’s and Juniors. 

A native of Youghal, Co. Cork, his playing career took off at Garryowen where he played mainly on the wing but also at fly-half. He was a regular with Munster during 1983/86 and won an Ireland A cap in 1984. Taking up a teaching position he Galway, his first foray into coaching was at nearby Monivea. He coached Connacht in the mid 1990’s and led Ireland to a first ever U-21 Triple Crown in 1996.  

His next key coaching role was with the USA Eagles in 1997/99 and he then succeeded Warren Gatland as Ireland Head Coach for the period 2001/8. During that term Ireland won Triple Crowns in 2004, 2006 and 2007 although the Six Nations title narrowly eluded them on a number of occasions.

Ulster Bank League Division 1A, Dooradoyle, Limerick 8/4/2017
Garryowen vs Old Belvedere
Old Belvedere consultant coach Eddie O’Sullivan
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/James Crombie

But the 63-year-old’s coaching successes saw Ireland rise to No.3 in the world rankings and also forge a record 43-13 victory over England in that historic match played at Croke Park in 2007. He was also an assistant coach with the British & Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005. 

Eddie’s formidable coaching track record includes five World Cup finals, three of them as head coach. His expansive coaching history has included the Barbarians, Biarritz Olympique, Old Belvedere and Blackrock College. More recently he has been a sharp media pundit particularly on RTE and released his autobiography “Never Die Wondering” in 2009. 

O’Sullivan’s marquee appointment has been widely welcomed and stirs anticipation ahead of Buccaneers first training session for the upcoming season pencilled in for July 5th 

Buccaneers RFC seek applications for the role of Seniors Head Coach.

Expressions of interest, with coaching CV should be emailed to [email protected] for attention of the Club Director of Rugby.

The closing date for applications is Friday June 17th 2022.

Following Buccaneers’ Charlie Cooper winning Coach of the Year at last weekend’s Connacht Rugby Awards, the club held their own event to celebrate their achievements over the past season.

Amongst the winners was Ciaran Booth, who took home the Buccaneers Senior Player of the Year Award.

Scrumhalf Aoibhe Kelly was awarded the Buccaneers Women’s Player of the Year award.

The man known as ‘The Cedgehammer’, Cedric Fokam, won Junior Player of the Year, while Cian McCann is the Buccaneers U20 Player of the Year.

Other winners included Evan Galvin, who was belatedly recognised for his contribution throughout the 2019-20 season and Martin Webster, who won the Club Person of the Year award.

Connacht captain Jack Carty presented awards on the evening.

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