Buccaneers are home to Old Belvedere in the All-Ireland League at Dubarry Park on Saturday afternoon with the action kicking off at 2.30p.m.
Belvo are just one place above Buccs in a very tightly congested Division 1B. The last time the sides met, just a single point separated the sides at Anglesea Road when a depleted Pirates crew were pipped 11-10.
Luke Carty’s final kick of that match was desperately unlucky to see his drop goal effort fade tantalisingly the wrong side of an upright
Buccs should be a stronger force on this occasion despite the continued absences of Rory Moloney, Martin Staunton and Peter Claffey.
The Athlone side will be hopeful that Conan O’Donnell and Conor Kenny can replicate their influence shown at Ballymena while Joe Maksymiw should be more settled if available.
Torin Rensford, Evan Galvin and Simon Meagher are an effective back row unit complemented by the efforts of fiery hooker John Sutton and Ruairi Byrne.
Carty is likely to be paired with Frank Hopkins at halfback while Shane Layden (who has scored in his three most recent AIL games) and Kieran Joyce are developing a potent pairing in the centre.
Callum Boland has been rock steady at fullback and Rory O’Connor is always a threat on the wing.
Dean McMahon, who scored at Anglesea Road, could be retained on the wing pending Darragh Corbett’s availability.
Graham Lynch and Michael Hanley are other viable options in the backline for this “must win battle”.
Backs coach for the visitors Steve Crosbie is likely to operate at standoff in an Old Belvedere backline that could include a pair of ex-Buccs in Ben Carty and the evergreen Danny Riordan.
Big winger Jack Keating must not be allowed get any space or momentum. Conor Owende and Roman Salamoa could be recalled to the Belvo pack in which Jack Kelly, Ed Rossiter and Eoin Sweeney are key personnel.
There is very little between any of the teams in this division but, in what could be a fiercely contested duel, Buccaneers simply must make home advantage pay to forge a win that would move them up another notch on the league table.
Under-20’s away to NUIG
Buccaneers Under-20’s face a stern test when they square up to NUIG in a ‘Connacht derby’ in the Leinster U-20 League at Dangan, Galway! Kick off is 2.30 p.m.
The Students edged the decision 29-26 when the teams met at Dubarry Park early in the season but the midlanders lie one place above College in fifth on the leaderboard.
These young Buccs really put it up to leaders Old Wesley last Sunday and, if they can repeat the effort and style of the second half, they are capable of overturning NUIG.