Buccaneers look to build momentum against Ballymena this Saturday

Buccaneers make the long journey north to face Ballymena in the Ulster Bank League Division 1B at Eaton Park on Saturday, with kick off 2.30pm.

The Braidmen are going well this season, currently in second place just two points behind St Mary’s College, the only team they have lost to so far. Ballymena's squad is well balanced, with three members included in the Club International panel; fullback Rodger McBurney, centre Callum Patterson, and lock Connor Smyth. This trio can cause plenty of problems for the Athlone representatives, as can scrumhalf David Shanahan and backrow players Stephen Mullholland and Clive Ross.

Ritchie McMaster and Andrew McGrath jostle for the outhalf berth, while Martin Irwin is strong in the centre. Hooker John McAndrew and number 8 Matthew Rea are other capable operators in their ranks. Last time out Ballymena narrowly defeated UL Bohemian away, but whacked Old Wesley 48-0 in their previous home outing. However, they only just pipped a depleted Buccs crew 15-14 under the Dubarry Park floodlights when the sides met earlier in the season.

Following their winning start to 2016, Buccaneers will travel with some confidence, buoyed up particularly by their impressive performance away to Dublin University. If Conor McKeon, Shane Delahunt, Rory Moloney, and Danny Qualter are available the Pirates' chances of making a positive impression on their raid up north would greatly improve. Young prop Conor Kenny is likely to miss this trip, but Alan Gaughan and Stephen McVeigh could be fit to return after injuries.

With a squad close to that at Trinity, Buccaneers can put it up to the Ulster club. Meanwhile, Buccaneers seconds turn their attention to the Heineken Connacht Junior Cup on Sunday when NUIG visit Dubarry Park for a second round tie that kicks off at 2pm in case of extra time. The Students had a good 19-3 away victory over Corrib in the opening round, and have been going nicely in Division 1B where they have won seven of their nine league matches to date.

They are second in that table, so Buccs cannot afford to underestimate them. Of course, much will depend on player availability if the first team need to pull from this squad. Nicky Purcell is ruled out through injury while a doubt surrounds Ricky Dixon's participation, but Paul Gallogly could be back to bolster the pack.

Buccs u20s travel to Dublin on Sunday to take on one of the country’s strongest panels at this level when they face Lansdowne in the JP Fanagan Leinster u20 Premier League. Kick off at the Aviva back pitch is 2.30pm.


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