Buccaneers Rebel County bound for Bateman Cup Semi-final
BUCCANEERS will face the defending champions, Cork Constitution in the semi-final of the Bateman Cup at Temple Hill, Cork, on Saturday. Kick off is 2.30 p.m. Cork Con will be the strongest of favourites for this All-Ireland semi-final as they are bidding for an unprecedented five in a row triumphs in this competition. All the expectations will be on the Corkonians to again deliver, especially on their own ground. Realistically Buccs will travel more in hope than expectation but they can shake off the shackles and seize the occasion.
Cork Con have had two searching encounters with Highfield in recent weeks, prevailing 31-15 in the Munster Senior Cup semi-final and following that up with a 17-11 Cork Charity Cup final triumph after extra time. Highfield, with David Kelly still powering away in the second row, made the holders work hard on both occasions. Speedsters Shane Daly and Ned Hodson are a potent threat for the Rebels while Niall Kenneally and Robert Jermyn are a strong duo in their three-quarters line. Tomas Quinlan is a tidy outhalf and reliable placekicker while Darragh Lyons provides able cover. Lock Conor Kindregan will be familiar to the Pirates and Luke Cahill is a mobile No.8. Max Abbott is a talented hooker in a strong front row trio.
With Connacht and Connacht Eagles both in action on Saturday, Buccaneers must plan without a significant number of likely starters. Kolo Kiripati, who was unavailable when the sides met at this stage a couple of seasons ago, can be counted on to lead the midlanders by example. John Sutton, Martin Staunton, Evan Galvin, Ruairi Byrne and Stephen McVeigh will follow suit in the forwards exchanges where youngsters Simon Meagher and Ryan O’Meara could be joined in the fray by Rory Grenham. Corkonian James Foley too would love to be involved! In the backline, Shane Layden and Jordan Conroy should be fresh and raring to go following their involvement with the Ireland Sevens squad and Mata Fifita is having a powerful campaign in the centre. Alan Gaughan is having his best season to date having settled solidly into the standoff role. Callum Boland, Eoghan O’Reilly and fit again Rory O’Connor are likely to start as is promising U-20 Frankie Hopkins at scrumhalf.
With progress in the AIL league being their primary objective, there will be no pressure on the Pirates so Buccs can give it a go as they pit their wits against a consistently top side. But the Athlone side has enjoyed a super season to date and are playing with confidence and flair. Maintaining workrate, discipline and composure will be priorities on Saturday — and play the match, not the occasion — then the Pirates can upset the projections.
The Buccaneers second team suffered a most disappointing 19-15 home defeat to bottom club NUIG in their Connacht Junior 1A League encounter at Dubarry Park on Sunday. The Students were the livelier outfit in the opening period as they built up a 12-0 lead helped by an early try. Buccs were always chasing the game thereafter and a lack of leadership and needless errors cost them dearly in a contest they should have been well capable of winning.
College opened their account with an unconverted try following a series of pick and goes before Ruairi Keogh-Clarke sped down the left flank to notch their second try which Ryan Guilfoyle converted. The midlanders finally got some momentum in the closing stages of the opening half and their pressure saw yellow cards issued in quick succession to NUIG duo Matt Davey and Rory Gaffney. Buccs duly made their temporary numerical advantage pay with a try wide on the left by Brian Walsh to reduce the halftime arrears to 5-12.
Buccaneers dominated following the interval but lacked cohesion and focus with too many unforced errors not helping their cause. They finally got some momentum in a thrilling final quarter and an exciting break initiated by Sean Byrne and carried on by Rory O’Connor and Eoghan O’Reilly looked certain to yield a try but Dean McMahon spilled the ball close to the College line. However, a series of fine mauls followed and Rory Grenham was driven over for a 67th minute try wide on the left.
But the spirited Students responded with a flowing move finished off by Keogh-Clarke within three minutes and Guilfoyle added a good conversion. Buccs battled on and James O’Connell got reward for his sterling efforts with a 77th minute try. However, Buccs failed to convert any of their touchdowns and a losing bonus point was all they had to show for their endeavours. The link between backs and forwards was their Achilles heel on the day and overall Buccs were the authors of their own downfall. NUIG rose to the occasion to get a win that throws them a lifeline in their battle to avoid relegation but Buccaneers must sharpen up or they too will be dragged into the basement dogfight.
Meanwhile NUIG Womens team prevailed over Buccaneers in their Connacht League encounter also played at Dubarry Park. The Students lasses won 17-5 despite a gritty showing from the Pirates ladies for whom Hazel Kilduff scored a try. NUIG remain top of this league.
BUCCANEERS:- R.O’Connor; B.Walsh, Eoghan O’Reilly, Eoin O’Reilly, H.Hughes; D.McMahon, G.Fallon; K.Grehan, R.Grenham, R.O’Meara; R.Byrne, S.Byrne; N.Flynn, J.Foley and J.O’Connell. Replacements:- T.Thompson (for Grehan), C.Conroy, T.Couper, C.Cleary and B.Kennedy.
NUIG:- R.Keogh-Clarke; M.Brady, J.Murray, R.Nicoll, J.Kennedy; R.Guilfoyle, R.Gaffney; D.Donohoe, S.Faulkner, C.Hennessy; C.O’Flaherty, T.Feegan; M.Davey, A.Doyle and R.Stanley. Replacements:- P.Magliocco (for Murray), J.Whooley (for Davey), K.Harty (for Donohoe), J.Dunne (for Doyle) and C.Hughes.
BUCCANEERS U-20’s travel to Co. Wicklow on Sunday when they tackle Greystones at Dr. Hickey Park in the J.P.Fanagan Leinster U-20 Premier League 2. Kick off is 2.30 p.m. The young Pirates were inactive last weekend when they were scheduled to take on leaders Old Belvedere in Athlone. However, that much anticipated joust did not take place as the city side was unable to field. Accordingly on the Leinster website, this was deemed a concession so the Athlone team edges above Old Belvedere into second place on the league table on 32 points with MU/Barnhall taking advantage to move to top place on 34 points.
Buccaneers came out on top at home to Greystones, finishing the stronger to win 36-13. It will be a lot tougher on the east coast but Buccs are more resourceful and organised now and, if they are not missing too many due to the Seniors Cup match in Cork, they can prevail again. Niall Farrelly, Ross Cooper, Brian Collins and Eoghan Maher can dictate the forwards battle. If they do, Thomas McGann, Ryan Convey, Dan Keane and Sam Hastings have the pace and nous to carve out match-winning scores. Meanwhile, Buccs will be keeping an eye on the outcome of the Old Belvedere v MU/Barnhall match which also takes place on Sunday but first they will have look after their own affairs at Greystones.
Finally the Buccaneers first team will resume Ulster Bank League action on Saturday week when they host Ballymena in a greatly anticipated Division 1B encounter under the Dubarry Park floodlights. Indeed, new floodlights will be installed in time for this return match which kicks off at 7.30 p.m.