The end of a long season is fast approaching and Buccaneers now have just two Ulster Bank League fixtures remaining. First up is a Division 1B trip to Limerick to take on nine times champions Shannon on Saturday, kick off 2.30pm.
A competitive joust is anticipated as Shannon are not quite out of the relegation mire yet, while Buccs will be keen to maintain the winning ways of their drive to the title.
Hopefully the Pirates will not have over-indulged having secured promotion. Shannon is one of those clubs Buccs need to measure up to. Last season in the corresponding fixture, the Athlone outfit suffered a defeat that did not help their play-off bid the following weekend away to Ballynahinch. They should be keen to atone for that, but will need to be focused and accurate in the execution of their play against the Limerick side.
Shannon have won five of their seven matches since Tom Hayes took over as coach and have got some momentum in their bid to retain their Division 1B status. However, they still lie third from bottom, seven points ahead of Galwegians and nine above Dolphin. They will come out fighting for the points on offer to make life a lot easier for them in their final outing away to Ballymena.
They have a terrific front row where experienced Munster duo John Andress and Duncan Casey will join the lively Conor Glynn. Australian lock Riley Winter, skipper Lee Nicholas and upcoming number eight John Foley add to a fine pack. Hayes has exciting young talent in his backline, especially the Fitzgeralds (Stephen at fullback and Conor at flyhalf ), where Luke O’Dea and Greg O’Shea have had game time with Munster.
But Buccaneers have some depth to their squad too as evidenced by their march to the title where they lost just two matches despite having regular changes to their matchday squad. Kolo Kiripati has proven a wonderful skipper in his last voyage as leader of the Pirates and Danny Qualter, Martin Staunton, Stephen McVeigh, and John Sutton have been impressively consistent.
Rory Moloney, Simon Meagher, Evan Galvin, and Jamie Dever can mix it at this level too. Shane Layden, Mata Fifita, and Eoin Griffin are strong players in the backline where Jordan Conroy has really caught the eye. The tight confines of Thomond Park’s back pitch may not suit the flying winger as he bids to add to his 17 try haul. Alan Gaughan has been effective at outhalf. Conor McKeon, Luke Carty, and Frankie Hopkins are young players on the up while Rory O’Connor displayed he too has a cutting edge with his five-try salvo last weekend. Eoghan O’Reilly, Shane O’Leary, and Callum Boland are also keen and able to start.
With pride at stake for both sides, this looks like being an entertaining battle.