Darin Claasen and Mike McCarthy have been unveiled as the coaching duo in charge of Buccaneers, as the Athlone club gears up for life in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League.
Claasen was assistant to Brett Wilkinson for the past two seasons and he replaces his fellow South African, who has departed to Hong Kong, as head coach of the Pirates, while retaining his role as backs coach.
In the first of those two seasons, Buccaneers reached the AIL play-offs and also won the Connacht Senior League title. Last season, the Midlanders proved even more impressive, capturing a Connacht Senior League and Cup double whilst romping away to the Division 1B title and thus promotion to the top flight of Irish club rugby. The slick backs work overseen by Claasen was a key factor in Buccs’ progress.
A talented and versatile back, Claasen’s first foray into club rugby in Ireland was with Castlebar. He then spent a lengthy period with Galway Corinthians before joining Buccaneers. He has SARFU Levels 1 and 2 coaching awards and is also a personal trainer at Unique Fitness & Health in Athlone. He is married to Carol from Clonown, and they have three daughters.
McCarthy is another former Buccaneers player, having played in 2003 while with Connacht, whom he joined from Wasps. He departed to Newcastle Falcons the following season before returning to Connacht in 2007.
The imposing lock played for England U21s but was Irish qualified. A late bloomer, he made his Ireland debut in 2011, winning 19 senior caps. He switched to Leinster two seasons ago and was due to move to top French club Narbonne this summer, but injury brought his playing career to a premature end.
This is the 35-year-old’s first taste of coaching. He will be forwards coach at Dubarry Park where he will bring a wealth of experience and pedigree to his latest calling in rugby.
Buccaneers begin training for the forthcoming season on Tuesday, July 18, ahead of the league kick-off in early September.