It is top against bottom as Buccaneers and Dolphin battle for precious Ulster Bank League points at Dubarry Park on Saturday next. Kick off for this key Division 1B match in Athlone is 2.30pm.
Buccs are within touching distance of promotion to the top flight and they will be eager to stretch their superb unbeaten sequence.
Saba Meunargia’s departure to Doncaster is a massive loss to Buccs, but Ryan O’Meara’s recent form has been encouraging following recent injury setbacks, so he could join Martin Staunton and John Sutton in the home front row. Simon Meagher has done very well partnering Danny Qualter at lock in the absence through injury of Cian Romaine, while the Pirates’ back row trio of Rory Moloney, Stephen McVeigh, and Kolo Kiripati can match the best at this level.
Evan Galvin, Rory Grenham, Shane Delahunt, and Ruairi Byrne are solid alternatives in the home pack where Conor Kenny is close to a comeback. Shane Layden and Jordan Conroy return after their Ireland Sevens camp in Portugal to add firepower to the Pirates’ backs unit. Alan Gaughan has come on in leaps and bounds this season and Frankie Hopkins has slotted in more or less seamlessly alongside him and the best is yet to be seen from Luke Carty.
Shane O’Leary, Rory O’Connor, Callum Boland, and Alex Hayman will all be vying for starting berths but Mata Fifita is ruled out due to injury but Eoghan O’Reilly could be fit again.
Buccaneers have worked hard all season and their momentum can take them one step closer to sealing promotion.