RUGBY with Michael Silke
Buccaneers enter unknown territory when they take on Queens University in the opening round of All-Ireland League promotion/relegation fixtures on Saturday. The first visit by Queens to Dubarry Park kicks off at 2.30pm. It’s win or bust for both clubs and Buccs, being the higher-seeded club, have home advantage on which they must capitalise.
Queens arrive on the back of a tremendous winning streak, losing just one AIL match in 2019. In doing so, they have accumulated some high scores and, of course, have moved steadily up the Division 2A league table to qualify for the play-offs. The Blues have a slick backline, well capable of poaching scores. Their captain David Whitten can play at lock or in the back row and he was a teammate of Rory O’Connor recently on the Ireland Students team.
They will prove dangerous foes and Buccaneers must really hit the ground running and maintain their workrate, discipline and focus all the way to the final whistle. Communication and leadership, on and off the paddock, could be decisive. The midlanders did not risk utilising players carrying injuries or niggles against Naas so Shane Layden, Callum Boland and John Sutton are among those who could be returning on Saturday. Peter Claffey and Rory Moloney could also be recovered for inclusion but Simon Meagher unlikely to be fit while Conor Kenny and Darragh Corbett will both have benefited from returns to action at Forenaughts where a number of the younger players such as Michael Hanley and Brian McDonnell showed up well while Evan Galvin, Martin Staunton, Ruairi Byrne, Torin Rensford, Graham Lynch and Frank Hopkins can always be counted on to give of their best. Rory Grenham and Niall Farrelly are other solid options while the availability of Luke Carty, Colm Reilly, Conan O’Donnell, Corey Reid and Kieran Joyce would also be paramount to Buccs prospects.
Hopefully, coaches Peter O’Donnell and Aidan Wynne will have a full squad to select from for this “must win” encounter. If they have, Buccaneers have the talent and experience to get over what will surely be a tricky hurdle. With so much at stake for the Athlone club, the players can and must deliver. Large home support could also prove vital so let’s see a big crowd at Dubarry Park on Saturday.
Buccaneers suffer defeat in final league encounter
Naas 33 Buccaneers 19
Despite fielding a very injury depleted squad Buccaneers put up a brave and adventurous showing when going down 33-19 to Naas at Forenaughts in their final All-Ireland League Division 1B fixture of the season.
Buccs made eight changes for this ‘dead rubber’ game with youth getting its fling including a senior debut by Brian McDonnell at openside flanker.
Following a 15th minute try, the Pirates threatened the home line on a number of occasions through promising carries by Evan Galvin, Staunton and Sean Masterson, the latter being brought to ground just short of the home line. Then following an exciting break by Robert Enraght-Moony, Darragh Corbett finished off a good 24th minute move for an unconverted try and a 12-0 lead.
Two converted tries from the home side, one fortuitous, enable Naas to enjoy a 14-12 interval lead, a marginal positive which they extended out to sixteen points as the second half progressed.
Buccs remained competitive and Michael Hanley sniped a 76th minute try which was duly converted by Luke Carty.
But Naas had the final say when a swift counter attack resulted in an unconverted five pointer in the last move of an entertaining contest.
Meanwhile Buccaneers can take considerable heart from the adventure and enterprise of this performance by their youthful squad ahead. Hanley continues to blossom at fly-half, McDonnell was a bundle of energy on his debut, O’Connor showed his finishing prowess and Galvin was defiant from start to finish in a gallant effort by the pack.
BUCCANEERS:- G.Lynch; A.Wynne, R.O’Connor, R.Enraght-Moony, D.Corbett; M.Hanley, F.Hopkins; M.Staunton (captain ), R.Grenham, N.Farrelly; R.Byrne, T.Rensford; S.Masterson, B.McDonnell and E.Galvin. Replacements:- C.Kenny (for Farrelly, 49 mins ), C.Reilly (for Enraght-Moony, 49 mins ), L.Carty (for Lynch, 55 mins ), D.Browne (for Grenham, 57 mins ), N.Farrelly (for McDonnell, 61-71 mins temp ), O.Treacy (for Rensford, 68 mins ) and T.Rensford (for McDonnell, 72 mins ).