Buccaneers finally get into competitive action when they travel to face Galway Corinthians at Corinthian Park for a Connacht Senior League fixture on Saturday, with kick-off at 1.30pm.
Buccs are reigning league champions but will field a much-changed outfit for this contest, while Corinthians too have been active in reorganising their squad for the new season.
The Athlone side recorded a double over Corinthians last term, winning this corresponding league fixture 36-3 on the opening day of the season. It was much tighter later in the season when the clubs clashed in the Senior Cup final, with the Pirates coming out on top by 17-10 in a game that could have gone either way.
Both teams will probably have to take to the field without any of their Connacht representatives on Saturday. Thus Buccs are likely to look to ever-present duo from last season - Martin Staunton and John Sutton - who along with Simon Meagher, Evan Galvin, Ruairi Byrne, and Rory Grenham will form the nucleus of a pack that will not have the driving force of Kolo Kiripati in its ranks this year.
Ryan O’Meara, Niall Farrelly, Ronan Farrell, and Brian Collins are among the young guns who could get an opportunity to put their hands up for inclusion in AIL squads. Shane Layden, Rory O’Connor, Callum Boland, and Mata Fifita should be key figures in a backline that could be short of Alan Gaughan (GAA ) and Jordan Conroy.
Frankie Hopkins, Graham Lynch, Dan Keane, Dean McMahon, and Thomas McGann are young enterprising backs itching to start in what will be Darin Claasen’s first game in charge. Adding spice to the occasion, Buccaneers’ new head coach played for many a season at Corinthian Park. It will be interesting to note any change of style or focus in the pack under the tutelage of Mike McCarthy in his first coaching role.
It should be a lively and entertaining tussle as Buccaneers commence the defence of their Connacht League title. The outcome will surely be much closer than last season, but if the Midlanders gel they can make a winning start to the season.
Meanwhile, next week’s home league fixture against Sligo has been brought forward to Friday night with an 8pm kick-off at Dubarry Park.