Athlone’s sporting prowess will be to the fore on the world stage following the landmark inclusion of former Buccaneers players, Robbie Henshaw and Jack Carty in the Ireland rugby squad prior to the start of the World Cup in Japan on Friday, September 20.
Speaking this week, Buccaneers PRO, Michael Silke, eulogised upon both players rugby achievements to date, noting that their formal inclusion in Joe Schmidt’s squad has been well merited.
“It is a fantastic achievement that two players from the relatively modest rural club based in Athlone have been selected. Both are young unassuming guys who have worked hard at their sport and will now be involved at rugby’s pinnacle tournament. They are wonderful role models especially for all the younger players at Buccaneers and beyond. Henshaw and Carty were both members of the Buccaneers team that won the club’s first ever All-Ireland title, the U-19 Cup in 2011,” Michael enthused.
The more internationally experienced of the duo, this will be Henshaw’s second appearance at a rugby world cup, having featured in 2015, when the tournament was held in England.
“Robbie’s progress through to the Ireland ranks was particularly swift, from captaining Marist College to quickly making an impact with Connacht where he was on the province’s team that won a first ever competition when claiming the PRO12 trophy in 2016. He won the first of his 37 Ireland Senior caps whilst still a teenager and has scored 4 tries including touchdowns in victories over Engand and a first ever win over New Zealand.
“This will be his second RWC and he was the first Athlone player to be selected by the British & Irish Lions in 2017. A versatile back he has played in a number of positions for Ireland with whom he has enjoyed Six Nations Grand Slam success whilst he has also tasted Champions Cup and PRO14 glory with Leinster.
“Henshaw has won numerous awards including the ‘IRUPA Nevin Spence Young Player of the Year’ on an incredible three occasions and ‘Connacht Rugby Players Player of the Year’ accolade,” Michael continued.
Michael alluded to Carty’s prowess on numerous sporting fronts before he opted for the oval ball he has enjoyed a rich vein of form with his province, Connacht.
“Jack’s ascendancy was slower but steady and, initially, he caught the eye at soccer and gaelic football, representing Ireland up to U15 in the former and playing with Roscommon minors in the latter. However, his underage exploits at Buccaneers brought him to the attention of Connacht where he played at various underage grades. This earned him recognition with the Ireland selectors and he played for the U-20’s at the 2012 Junior World Cup.
“Late the following year he made his first senior appearance for Connacht followed by his first senior start in early 2014. It took him some time to nail down the fly-half berth at The Sportsground but such has been his progress that he is now the province’s leading points scorer in the PRO12/14 era. He scored the ‘Try of the Year’ against Brive two seasons ago and recently was voted the ‘Virgin Media Sport Supporters Player of the Year’ at the Rugby Players Ireland Awards. There will surely be more to follow,” Michael emphasised.