Buccaneers had to fight every inch of the way as they won the Connacht U17 Cup following a gripping decider against a dogged Ballina side at the Sportsground on Sunday (May 7 ).
Buccaneers started brilliantly and touched down in the left corner on six minutes when winger Adam Murtagh raced clear to score. Murtagh himself added the touchline conversion to give Buccs a 7-0 lead.
Ballina enjoyed the lion’s share of possession in the next 20 minutes, with out-half Craig McCormick seeing his penalty blow wide by the strong wind. However, on the half-hour mark Billy McVann touched in the right corner following a rolling maul.
Buccs scored the final points of the half as Murtagh brought his tally to 10 with the game’s first penalty, leaving the score 10-5 in The Pirates’ favour.
Ballina had the aid of the wind in the second half and following a rolling maul McVann broke clear to sprint 15 metres unopposed to level the scores. McCormick’s conversion gave Ballina the lead for the first time.
Early in the second half, Buccs went to their bench and brought on Liam Winnett and Liam Doyle, who replaced Jason Conway and Conor Clarke.
Mathias O’Neill worked hard to get his side back in the game and it was fitting that the flanker was the man to breach the Ballina rear-guard. The try came after a period of sustained pressure, with O’Neill bursting through a tackle from five yards out to touch down. Outhalf Nathan Horan added the conversion for a 17-12 lead.
It was nearly all one-way traffic from then on as the young Buccs kept their foot to the floor. Centre Rory Dempsey darted through a gap in the overstretched Ballina defence to add another try late on. Within minutes, some strong ball-carrying in the centre allowed the backs to attack the space. Ben Muphy flashed past the remaining defenders to score in the corner.
The unconverted tries gave Buccs a resounding 27-12 lead, and that is how it finished. Every squad player delivered both on and off the field on this special Sunday that will live long in their memories.