Buccaneers face Dolphin at Independent Park when the Ulster Bank League resumes on Saturday with this match kicking off at 2.30pm in Cork.
The southerners proved something of a bogey side for the Pirates last season as they recorded wins home and away over the Athlone outfit, so Buccs will be fired up and focused to redress that this bank holiday weekend.
The Midlanders were decidedly unfortunate to lose by a solitary point at the former Musgrave Park venue on the corresponding weekend last year. However, they had no excuses when losing by 10 points in Dubarry Park, one of only two games last season in which the Buccs failed to acquire any points. Indiscipline and a drop in focus occurred in both those defeats to Dolphin, but these are areas that Buccaneers have worked on and improved at this term.
Coached by David Corkery, Dolphin have a much-changed squad with Cian Bohane’s move to Young Munster a big loss, while Rory Scannell, such an influence in Independent Park last season, is now a valuable member of the Munster squad, where prop Brian Scott has also made a number of appearances recently.
But they have the peerless Barry Keeshan again directing operations at fly-half and the veteran’s place-kicking radar is as good as ever, so Buccs will be well advised not to concede needless penalties. Will Hanly and Cian McGovern are two other backs to be mindful of while locks Dave O’Mahony and Munster Development player John Madigan are a pair of competitive forwards in the Rebels pack. Barry Fitzgerald, Ken O’Halloran, and Rob O’Herlihy are other forwards who can be counted upon to battle to the very end.
Buccs look like being able to field more or less along expected lines although Kolo Kiripati is unlikely to feature. The skipper suffered a nasty ear injury in the victory at Naas and it may be prudent not to risk him so soon after that setback.
Stephen McVeigh will likely man the number 8 berth again where he did quite well in the win over UCC, while Saba Meunargia and Rory Moloney will, hopefully, recover from knocks in time for this trip south. Alan Gaughan’s GAA commitments are now at an end while David Butler has had game time with the seconds in recent weeks so competition for starting berths in the backline, where Jordan Conroy is in try-scoring form, is getting keener.
It may be jazz weekend in Cork, but an away victory would be sweeter music to Buccaneers who will be keen to at least consolidate second place in the league table. If the Pirates can muster a near full-strength crew, then they should have the talent and ability to overcome Dolphin, who lie second from bottom just one point ahead of Shannon. However, they proved awkward customers last season and Buccs will need to be patient and clinical from start to finish to keep their good run of results going.