Buccaneers kick off their Ulster Bank League 2018 schedule with a trip to Temple Hill, Cork, where they take on champions Cork Constitution on Saturday, the action kicking off at 2.30pm.
The Pirates were narrowly pipped 24-19 when the sides met at Dubarry Park in the first half of Division 1A shortly before Christmas. That result, and Cork Con’s Munster Senior Cup defeat in the interim, will give the midlanders encouragement for this testing assignment.
Cork Con will be smarting following the ending of their five year reign as Munster Senior Cup champions, losing out by 37-11 at Garryowen. Prior to that, the teams had enjoyed home victories in their recent back to back AIL encounters.
The Cork side have lacked their usual consistency this season, yet lie nicely in third place and are well capable of retaining the league title. They have power in the pack, as proven by three pushover tries in their league win over Garryowen. Former Bucc Conor Kindregan at lock, hooker Max Abbott, and backrower Graeme Lawlor are key components. When their pack dominates, The Rebels have a ruthless backline, with Rob Jermyn, Ned Hodson, Niall Kenneally and Gerry Hurley all dangerous in possession, while Tomas Quinlan is a very efficient fly-half.
Buccs will need to be at their best to compete, but they proved in their earlier game against Saturday’s opponents that they can put it up to the holders. Dan Law will be an absentee from the Pirates pack but, hopefully, the midlanders will be stronger in this sector than when at home to St Mary’s College in their last outing. The availability of Paul Boyle, Peter Claffey, Conan O’Donnell and Conor Kenny will greatly boost the Athlone side. Cian Romaine, Martin Staunton, Simon Meagher, John Sutton and Ruairi Byrne can be counted on to give their best.
Rory O’Connor will be looking for better service at Temple Hill so that he can add to his try tally, while Luke Carty, Shane Layden and Alan Gaughan have been playing very well of late. Darragh Colbert has slotted in nicely since his recent debut, and Callum Boland is getting back to fine form following his lengthy injury lay-off. If Conor McKeon is available, this would give food for thought to the management team, as Frankie Hopkins and Graham Lynch have both done well at scrum-half when selected.
This will be a massive test for Buccaneers, but if they maintain their discipline, commitment and composure they can cause an upset.
Buccaneers Women team have an early 2018 return to action when they host Castlebar in the Connacht Womens League at Dubarry Park on Sunday, with kick-off scheduled for 1pm.