Putting in a magnificent all-round team performance, Buccaneers proved much too strong for Corinthians in the Connacht U18.5 Cup final, played at The Sportsground, Galway, on Sunday.
The Pirates made it a double in the province, having already claimed the league title, by virtue of this comprehensive 38-0 victory.
In front of a large attendance, the Midlanders did not have it all their own way as, backed by the considerable breeze in the first half, the city side made most of the early running. But they found the Buccs defence in a miserly mood, relentless in their tackling and harrying. In windy and cool conditions, Corinthians took the game to the favourites, with the Tribesmen’s Conor MacDonald causing problems initially.
But the pacey winger saw less and less of the ball as the Galway outfit persisted in trying to go up the middle, where the Buccs defensive line was unyielding, while the Shannonsiders’ out-half Sean Flynn kept the opposition guessing with the variety of his play.
Corinthians lost captain Lorcan Roche to injury after 16 minutes, and then spurned a gilt-edged scoring opportunity when Buccs were tempted offside a few minutes later. Instead of getting points on the board with the penalty from in front of the posts, they kicked to touch in the right corner, where a long throw in the breezy conditions was also an ill-judged choice. They had thrown everything in their armour at that stage without finding any chink in Buccaneers’ organisation or resolution.
As an absorbing contest entered the second quarter and the rain intensified, Buccs began to make progress against the elements. Jack Mulholland was fortunate not to see yellow following a late tackle on John Tumulty, after which a smart snipe by Flynn made telling ground, before a strong carry by Liam Winnett was stopped short.
The momentum was going Buccs way. They earned a close in penalty which they tapped, and Liam Doyle powered through for a 28th minute try. In the tricky conditions, Nathan Horan was unable to add the conversion.
Corinthians were being stretched and a high tackle on Winnett earned Evan Kenny a trip to the sin bin five minutes before half-time, which arrived with Buccaneers 5-0 ahead.
Having soaked up all that the opposition and the elements could throw at them, Buccs were firmly in the driving seat after the break. But it took them longer than expected to pierce stubborn Corinthians defending following the change of ends.
Mathias O’Neill made a terrific steal early on, but Winnett could not hold his offload, before a splendid angled garryowen by Horan was secured by a mighty leap from Tumulty. This set up a spell of fierce pressure by Buccs, with O’Neill driving over the line for a 50th minute try, which Horan converted.
From the restart, Buccs earned a penalty, which was punted to the right corner. Fergus Galvin and Doyle both made ground following the line-out, before the ball was moved to the left where O’Neill applied the finishing touch for an unconverted try. This put daylight between the teams, with Buccs 17-0 ahead.
Buccaneers were rampant in the closing stages. Galvin and Horan combined to send Doyle surging forward, where Flynn split the cover for a smashing 58th minute try that Horan converted. Buccs then unloaded their bench and the tries continued, with the best of the bunch following just two minutes later when Tumulty broke from his own 10 metre line. His mazy run left a trail of Corinthians defenders flailing in his wake. Horan added the conversion to this magnificent try.
Buccaneers finished the match in style with a flowing final move involving a handful of their players, ripping the city side apart, before Daniel Ennis grounded the ball for his team’s sixth try. With the ball falling off the kicking tee, substitute Adam Murtagh drop-kicked the conversion to complete the emphatic 38-0 margin.
This was an absolutely magnificent squad display by Buccaneers. They showed their resilience and character, particularly in the opening quarter against the elements and an eager Corinthians outfit. However, as they gradually imposed themselves on the proceedings, the outcome was never really in doubt.
Skipper Galvin led his forces in imperious fashion, as well as lording the line-outs. Darren Browne was busy as a beaver in a solid front row trio, and his line-out throws were radar sharp. Recently capped Winnett was a tower of strength, and Mark Tallon made an impact when introduced for the second half. Tumulty was a menace to the opposition in a lively back line, where Horan and Flynn dictated the proceedings.