Buccaneers can strengthen their position in Division 1B when they travel to Thomond Park on Saturday to square up to UL Bohemian in the Ulster Bank League. This battle between the second-placed Limerick team and leaders Buccs kicks off at 2.30pm.
When the teams met in the first half of the league, the Pirates won 49-17 against the Red Robins, their first loss of the campaign. Since then UL Bohs’ form has been inconsistent, losing both home and away to Naas, squeezing a last-gasp win over UCC and then suffering a 43-20 whacking last Friday in a derby duel with Shannon.
UL Bohs now trail Buccs by 11 points with just six matches remaining, so they will have to come out firing on all cylinders on Saturday. They will be smarting from that loss to Shannon, so the Midlanders can expect a response from the Munster outfit.
Captain Ian Condell can always be counted on to lead by example and Ed Kelly and Dave Foley are two other forwards who can make life difficult for the Athlone side. New Zealander Rick McKenna has settled in at outhalf for UL Bohs and the Ahearne brothers Cian and Finbarr will pose a threat in their backline. However, Buccs have kept their momentum going, winning 10 of their last eleven league matches and drawing the other despite regular enforced changes to their squad.
Cian Romaine and Conor McKeon remain sidelined, but Mata Fifita, Shane O’Leary, and Eoghan O’Reilly could be fit to return. Saba Meunargia should be available again following his absence last week due to a family bereavement. Jordan Conroy is back at his try-scoring exploits and Frankie Hopkins is another youngster who looks an exciting prospect.
Alan Gaughan is playing tremendously at present and skipper Kolo Kiripati is still a massive influence in a competitive and industrious Pirates pack. It may be the same old mantra, but workrate discipline and focus will be key, and head coach Brett Wilkinson is unlikely to allow any of these factors drop in this vital sector of the campaign.
Last Saturday, Buccs enjoyed a a 36-14 bonus point victory over Old Wesley at a bright but bitterly cold Dubarry Park. Rory Moloney put in a massive amount of work to claim the man of the match accolade, shading Jordan Conroy who now has 13 AIL tries to his credit this season. Danny Qualter, Gaughan, and young Frankie Hopkins also made telling contributions as Buccs earned a significant win despite their resources being stretched.
The only disappointing note for the home side was the sparse attendance.