Buccaneers host leaders Galwegians in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B at Dubarry Park, Athlone won Saturday afternoon with a 2.30pm kick off. A bumper attendance is anticipated for this first Connacht derby of the season.
Just like predecessors Terenure College last season, the Division 2A champions have hit the ground running and top the table following three narrow wins in their opening fixtures. Early scores in a pair of these games helped ‘Wegians on their way and a potent backline has ensured bonus point successes over Dublin University and Shannon, but it took a last-play Ciaran Gaffney drop goal to pip UL Bohemians last Saturday. Matt Dever and Jerome Harimate are speedsters on the flanks with Brian Murphy solid and secure in the centre while John Cleary has a knack of scoring against the Pirates. Jarlath Naughton, Jack Dineen and Brian McClearn are key figures in their pack where ex-Bucc Eoin Rooney could also feature.
Recently Galwegians retained their Connacht League crown, outscoring Buccs 32-27 at Crowley Park in the process. Both teams, however, will be much changed from that encounter and Saturday’s clash will likely be contested with greater tempo and vigour. Buccs’ backline, with Shane Layden, Rory O’Connor, and Alan Gaughan in current form, can disturb the light blues. Conor Finn and Eoghan O’Reilly are a real threat in broken play and Mark Dolan has added a cutting edge to his neat scrumhalf play. Cousins Conor FitzGibbon and Billy Henshaw will be keen to feature in this fixture for which Callum Boland should be back with the versatile Ger O’Connor in contention too.
Buccs’ young front row trio are growing in stature with each game. Props Diarmuid Higgins and Jacob Walshe are technically able and mobile and Martin Staunton is a highly viable option. Josh O’Rourke is improving at lock where James Tormey remains a crucial figure. Luke Satchwell is nearing the form of last season and Kolo Kiripati continues to impress. Mata Fifita would be a decided asset in this sector if he recovers from injury. Evan Galvin, Sam McCormack, Conor Morrissey, and Shane Delahunt are other youngsters itching to be involved.
Buccs will need to repeat the commitment and endeavour of their wins over Garryowen and Shannon and improve their discipline and lineout work. A fascinating battle is anticipated as Buccs seek to end ‘Wegians winning streak.