Buccaneers can strengthen their grip on Division 1B when they travel to Thomond Park on Saturday to square up to UL Bohemian in the Ulster Bank League.
By Michael Silke
This battle between the second placed Limerick side and leaders Buccaneers kicks off at 2.30 p.m. when international referee George Clancy will have charge of the whistle. When the teams met in the first half of the league, the Pirates doled out a 49-17 defeat to the Red Robins, their first loss of the campaign. Since then UL Bohs form has been inconsistent, losing both home and away to Naas, squeezing a last gasp win over UCC and then suffering a 43-20 whacking last Friday in a derby duel with Shannon.
UL Bohs now trail Buccs by eleven points with just six matches remaining so they will have to come out firing on all cylinders on Saturday. They will be smarting from that loss to Shannon so the midlanders can expect a response from the Munster outfit. Captain Ian Condell can always be counted on to lead by example and Ed Kelly and Dave Foley are two other forwards who can make life difficult for the Athlone side. New Zealander Rick McKenna has settled in at outhalf for UL Bohs and the Ahearne brothers Cian and Finbarr will pose a threat in their backline.
However, Buccs have kept their momentum going, winning ten of their last eleven league matches and drawing the other despite regular enforced changes to their squad. Cian Romaine and Conor McKeon remain sidelined but Mata Fifita, Shane O’Leary and Eoghan O’Reilly could be fit to return while Saba Meunargia should be available again following his absence last week due a family bereavement. Jordan Conroy is back at his try-scoring exploits and Frankie Hopkins is another youngster who looks an exciting prospect. Alan Gaughan is playing tremendously at present and skipper Kolo Kiripati is still a massive influence in a competitive and industrious Pirates pack. It may be the same old mantra but workrate, discipline and focus will be key and Head Coach Brett Wilkinson is unlikely to allow any of these factors drop in this vital sector of the league.
Three other Buccaneers Teams are in action this weekend
Buccaneers U-20s are home to NUIG in the J.P.Fanagan Leinster League Premier 2 division at Dubarry Park on Sunday with a 3 p.m. kick off. In this all-Connacht clash in the Leinster League, Buccs should come out on top. They defeated the Students 21-14 when the teams met in Galway and College have struggled at this level. Buccs have had a number of U-20’s involved with the Senior panel in recent weeks but, should they have some of them back for Sunday’s joust, then they can consolidate their second place berth in this division.
Buccaneers Seconds are also in action at Dubarry Park on Sunday when they square up to Galwegians Seconds in the Connacht Junior 1A League, kick off 2.30 p.m. This should be a battle royale as both teams will be striving desperately for much-needed points to keep out of relegation trouble. Buccs are third from bottom at present but just a solitary point above Wegians whom they defeated 20-17 in the league at Crowley Park. There was little between the teams too when they met in the recent Junior Cup quarter-final until the Pirates turned on the style with an enterprising second half performance. If they repeat that flair and effort (and eliminate the basic naivety and errors they displayed subsequently when losing to Ballinasloe), Buccs can fashion a precious win. It may not be pretty but if they dig deep the Pirates can take the spoils.
Buccaneers Women also have a tough test when they travel to Castlebar for a Connacht Womens League game that kicks off at 12pm. Buccs will be outsiders for this high noon showdown but, with places up for grabs in their upcoming Cup Final against Tuam, the Athlone girls can be counted on to give it their all on Sunday.
It is disappointing to note that some Membership Subscriptions from various sections of the club are not fully paid up. Consequently, members are asked to pay any outstanding or unpaid subscriptions as soon as possible.
To everyone who supported Buccaneers U-17’s well attended Table Quiz last Thursday.