Buccaneers kick off this season’s Energia All-Ireland League on Saturday afternoon when Queen’s University visit Dubarry Park, Athlone at 2.30 p.m.
Much has changed since Buccs enjoyed the heady heights of Division 1A following promotion just a few seasons ago to now facing up to the formidable challenges of life in Division 2A.
Successive relegations mean that the Pirates will be sailing in somewhat uncharted waters this season. New clubs to play and visit, considerable changes in playing personnel and a new sponsor of the AIL.
The midlanders begin their campaign against three Ulster clubs beginning with a swift return of Queen’s University who, ironically, were the last team that Buccaneers played in the AIL play-offs.
The Students prevailed on that occasion thereby confirming the Pirates sinking to 2A.
At this early stage, the northerners’ squad is somewhat of an unknown quantity but Buccaneers will field a greatly changed squad for this encounter.
John Sutton, Peter Claffey, Conan O’Donnell and Kieran Joyce have all departed while Luke Carty, Colm Reilly, Conor Kenny and Sean Masterson may be unavailable due to Connacht commitments.
Rory Moloney is ruled out through suspension while Brian McDonnell is injured.
Shane Layden skippers the Pirates for a third successive season and he will have solid and able support in the backline from Callum Boland, Darragh Corbett, Rory O’Connor, Frankie Hopkins and Graham Lynch.
Corey Reid and Eoghan O’Reilly, if fit, will also surely start while Thomas McGann and Michael Hanley are two young players who would not be found wanting. Robert Enraght-Moony and Ross Murphy-Sweeney are others who could feature.
Options in the pack are not as plentiful but Martin Staunton, Ruairi Byrne, Evan Galvin and Torin Rensford can be counted on to be competitive and give of their best from start to finish.
Newcomer Matthew Murphy is likely to line up in the front row alongside Rory Grenham while Sean O’Connell, Harry O’Reilly, Darren Browne, James Kelly and Liam Winnett are really promising young forwards who could be involved.