Buccaneers head north to Stevenson Park where they tackle Dungannon in the AIB League division 1B on Saturday afternoon, November 14, kick off 2.30 pm. Buccs will be bidding to maintain the momentum fired by back to back wins after a difficult opening sequence to the season, and victory in Co Tyrone would see the midlanders climb above the Ulster club in the league table.
Dungannon’s best result to date was a home victory over high-flying Young Munster but, by all accounts, the Cookies had enough possession that day to win two games but did not transfer possession onto the scoreboard and were then left exposed for a late, late sucker punch which duly came. Dungannon field a dogged, yet mobile pack in which former Ireland prop Justin Fitzpatrick is their anchor with upcoming hooker Stuart Philpott another decent performer in the front row. Lock Michael Rainey is another of their key forwards in a tight five while Thomas Anderson and Ali Birch are two lively backrowers whose influence will need curbing. Paul Magee and Glen Telford are two hugely experienced backs with fullback John McGuckin being a danger man as well as a decent placekicker. Home supporters are hoping that another ex-international Jonathan Bell could return to active service in this fixture.
Buccs, meanwhile, have found form and also perhaps their strongest settled starting lineup. Paul Harte is their main injury concern but last week’s break from action will have helped both his and Colm Rigney’s rehabilitation. Both are key players for the midlanders and their availability would be a decided boost for Buccs. If both are fit (and Connacht’s contingent are again available ), then Buccaneers would likely be unchanged although John O’Brien’s endeavours in recent Senior and U21 outings make a strong case for his inclusion. Brian Touhy and Aidan Wynne formed a solid centre pairing and JH Potgeiter may again be tasked with the fullback role that he unexpectedly found himself in. Alex Hayman and Adam Kennedy look ideal foils to each other at halfback although Conor O’Loughlin could well start at scrumhalf while the versatile Sean Stapleton could almost slot in anywhere!
In the forwards, young props Martin Staunton and Conor Higgins are growing in to their challenging roles with the vastly influential Garreth Halligan cajoling them along at hooker as well as doing his own business about the paddock. Stephen Burke, Colin Watters and captain Rigney form a formidable and competitive backrow – and could be the decisive unit of this encounter. James Tormey and Padraig Burke are the likely second row pairing in what should be a settled pack with both Anthony Hughes and Brendan McManus chasing starting spots here. Work commitments have restricted Marcus Madden’s availability and Benny Gilligan will surely see action at some stage of what should be a right good battle.