Buccaneers travel to one of the great homes of club rugby in Ireland on Saturday when they square up to Young Munster at Tom Clifford Park in their penultimate away fixture in the Ulster Bank League.
The Limerick venue, where home support is absolutely partisan, has seen a number of epic battles between these two clubs, who both sport black and gold colours. While this weekend’s joust is unlikely to attract such a large attendance, the outcome of the exchanges, which kick off at 2.30pm, will nevertheless be of the utmost importance to both The Cookies and The Pirates.
Young Munster lie in sixth place in the league table on 38 points, four points adrift of neighbours Garryowen and a further point behind Clontarf, as they chase a top four berth. At the time of writing, they have a winnable game in hand away to Dublin University. The tie comes at a time when Young Munster have regained their momentum, with a quartet of victories in the bag, including three wins over teams above them in the league table in Cork Constitution, Garryowen and Clontarf. Consequently, they will be favourites to overcome Buccs on Saturday.
Young Munster’s youthful captain Ben Kilkenny has impressed at lock, while another young forward, Gavin Coombes, is a real threat at number eight. Ger Slattery is a key operator in a formidable front row. Shane Airey has done well at fly-half since moving from UL Bohemian, and full-back Conor Hayes is another young player on the rise.
Young Munster finished the stronger when the teams met early in the season at Dubarry Park, where they came out on top by 32 points to 24. As in many matches this season, the Midlanders were somewhat depleted that day and also had little luck.
They are likely to be missing some key personnel again this weekend, with locks Cian Romaine and Peter Claffey doubtful to start. Shane Layden, Rory O’Connor, Simon Meagher and Callum Boland all sustained knocks in The Pirates’ loss to Clontarf, so it is likely that further changes will be forced on Buccs.
Buccs desperately need a win, but Young Munster also require the points to keep in the hunt at the top end of the table. Home advantage and their bigger pack may ensure that the spoils remain in Limerick on this occasion.