Buccaneers host the Connacht Senior Cup final for the first time at Dubarry Park on this Saturday, with Galway Corinthians the opponents for 2 p.m. kick off.
Buccs last won the Cup two seasons ago when they overcame Corinthians on a foggy night at Corinthian Park, hence the midlanders have home advantage on this occasion.
It was a close encounter when the clubs met in this season’s Connacht Senior League, where Buccs edged the decision 28-25 as they secured a fourth Senior League title in succession.
The Athlone club will be eager to complete the double with home advantage, but Cup games can be great levellers and the Pirates, who play in the AIL Division 1B, must not underestimate their AIL 2B opponents.
Corinthians currently lie in mid-table in 2B. They had a splendid November to move in to the top four and also knock arch rivals Galwegians out of the Cup courtesy of a 15-7 semi-final victory.
However they then suffered a trio of reversals last month to slip to sixth place in the league.
They have a tidy half-back pairing in outhalf Mark McDermott and young Jack White at scrumhalf while Cathal Evans is an able operator in the centre.
Craig Hansbury and Dylan Tierney are competitive front rowers for the Tribesmen with Aaron Broderick and captain Jack Noone two other forwards who can lead their teammates by example.
Cian Huxford is another exciting young prospect in the westerners’ squad coached by J.P.Cooney.
Injury rules out Rory Moloney, Buccaneers will look to ever consistent warhorses Martin Staunton and John Sutton to set the tone in the forwards contest where Peter Claffey’s availability would be an asset.
Evan Galvin and Simon Meagher can make inroads against the visitors’ pack, an area where Niall Farrelly continues to improve.
Shane Layden is getting better game by game following his lengthy injury lay-off and his experience, along with that of Callum Boland and Rory O’Connor, can provide the Shannonsiders a vital edge in the backs division.
There Luke Carty and Colm Reilly should give Buccs a platform to dictate while Darragh Corbett, Michael Hanley, Torin Rensford and Ruairi Byrne are others who can make an impact on Saturday as Buccaneers seek a third Cup triumph in four seasons.
With their higher ranking, Buccaneers will be favourites but they must not take anything for granted and be prepared to roll up their collective sleeves for battle.
Leadership and game management have been problems for the midlanders who have paid for naivety on occasion. But their mainly youthful side has not shirked hard work despite AIL results nor has their enthusiasm and endeavour wavered.
The Cup winners are away to City of Armagh on the following Saturday in the Bateman Cup (All-Ireland) semi-final.