Buccaneers put in a splendid effort

RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE BUCCANEERS   14   CORINTHIANS   9 BUCCANEERS RESERVES put in a splendid sustained effort to overcome their Corinthians counterparts 14-9 in a rousing Connacht Junior Cup semi-final at Corinthian Park, Clounacauneen,  on Sunday. Conditions were particularly testing at the exposed Galway ground but the hard work put it in recent weeks by the midlanders’ squad paid off as they knocked the holders out on their own patch in a tremendous duel. BUCCANEERS:- R.Lee; P.Byrne, P.Harte, P.Murphy, E.Griffith; D.Connellan, K.Turley; B.Gilligan, B.Campbell, E.Brady; J.Tormey, Anthony Hughes; S.O’Rourke, K.O’Gorman and Adrian Hughes (captain). Replacements used:- J.O’Connell (for Connellan), M.McGerr (for Byrne) and J.Walshe (for O’Rourke) CRUNCH   TIME   FOR   BUCCS   AWAY   TO   HARLEQUINS BUCCANEERS face their stiffest test of the season when they make the long journey north to Belfast this weekend to tackle Grafton Belfast Harlequins in what could be ‘the mother of all battles’ at the Grafton Arena, Deramore Park, in an AIB LEAGUE game that both clubs simply must win as they strive to preserve their Division One status for next season.  Both sides are surprising strugglers this term with the northerners losing their opening nine games on the trot. The introduction of former Ulster supremo Alan Solomons has revived their fortunes and they have since won all competitive matches, including their three AIB League games in the interim as well as advancing to the semi-finals of the AIB Cup. So confidence has been rejuvenated in their ranks and they will be keen to make home advantage pay in this tie which is, effectively, an ‘eight pointer’. They possess a youthful squad that likes to play expansive rugby. Fullback Mark Kettyle is the only ‘contracted’ player available to them but they have a handful of promising ‘development’ and ‘academy’ players in their side, notably Ireland U-20 centre Darren Cave, prop John Andress and lock Lewis Stevenson. Scrumhalf Paul Marshall will be familiar to those who saw Ireland U-20’s at Dubarry Park last season while outhalf Niall O’Connor is in the current squad. He is leading scorer this year for Quins who will likely feature Andy Ward in their backrow. So there is bags of potential in their squad, although they may lack experience and hardness. Thus, Buccs must be aggressive and committed, yet disciplined, in their approach to this oh so vital contest. Niall O’Hara and Conor O’Loughlin are both ruled out through injury but Buccs will anticipate the return after his U-20 exploits of Aidan Wynne while William Wallace (shoulder) and Gearoid O’Grady (flu) both hope to be fit for action. Buccaneers more experienced players such as Tom Cregan, David Kelly, Conor Hartigan, Garreth Halligan and Ted Robinson simply must lead by example on Saturday. Then David McGowan, Colin Finnerty, Mark Bruce, Alex Hayman, Michael Diffley, Sean Carey and Killian O’Neill can settle to the task on hand. Pat Cunningham, Benny Gilligan, Kieran O’Gorman, Brian Campbell and maybe Eddie Brady too may get a chance to show their mettle, but they will need to be cute and not infringe needlessly. It is a tough hurdle but certainly not an insurmountable one. Buccs have the ability and skills to be better placed in the league table than at present, but a lack of guile and a cutting edge has cost them dearly on occasion. They must rectify this at Deramore Park and, crucially, they must get going and mix it right from the first whistle all the way to the bitter end. No silly concessions early on, and confidence will build in the midlanders’ ranks and also, of course, no lapses of concentration in the vital closing stages. Lots of big demands there for Geoff Moylan and his Buccaneers charges. But destiny is in their own hands in these three final matches, which are akin to a round-robin series, with all three bottom clubs facing each other in these remaining fixtures. However, if Buccs play with pride and spirit, aggression and discipline, then they have the wherewithal to maintain their advantage over both Harlequins and UCD. Remaining fixtures Buccaneers v Belfast Harlequins (A) March 24th, UCD (H) April 7th and Lansdowne (A) April 21 st . Belfast Harlequins v Buccaneers (H) March 24 th , Ballymena (A) April 7 th and UCD (A) April 21 st . UCD v Cork Constitution (H) March 24 th , Buccaneers (A) April 7 th and Belfast Harlequins (H) April 21 st . So let’s get the job started in earnest at Harlequins. Kick off is 2.30 p.m. and Buccs players and mentors would dearly appreciate decent support up north on Saturday. A Supporters Bus is organised and those wishing to travel on it should confirm with Geraldine at 086-1732711. MIXED FORTUNES FOR MARIST COLLEGE Marist College had mixed fortunes in their quest for Connacht Schools Cup success at Galway Sportsground last Tuesday. Their Junior side got proceedings off to a winning start, defeating Garbally College 10-6 in a tight contest. Brendan Fagan dotted down for a try converted by Jack Carty who also kicked a penalty for a narrow but merited victory. However, Garbally took the Senior crown as they built up a match-winning tally to lead 25-3 at halftime. But Marist, fielding a younger squad (the bulk of whom will be eligible again next season) responded with a stirring second half display but, unfortunately, had given themselves too much of a mountain to climb. Nevertheless, Adam Kennedy’s try shortly after the restart finally got the Athlone side playing in the manner of which they are capable. David Fagan converted and also landed a brace of penalties before Jack Keegan’s try gave hope of an upset. But a stronger Ballinasloe school, for whom Robert Gilligan and Robert O’Beirne excelled, held on for a deserved win in front of a large attendance. IRELAND MISS OUT BUT GLORY FOR U-20s Ireland missed out on Six Nations glory in cruel circumstances when a debatable France try in added time ensured that the Gauls retained their Championship title on Saturday. It is ironic that the score was awarded by the TV match official, Irishman Simon McDowell. It was by no means certain from the TV replays that a legitimate try was actually scored but then Ireland notched a couple of tries in Rome that had forward pass written all over them! So, while it was frustrating and disappointing, these things seem to balance themselves out over a campaign. In hindsight, of course, Ireland should have settled for a penalty kick at the end of their brilliant display (lineouts excepted) against the Italians but instead coughed up a costly late score to their hosts. In reality, however, the title was lost in that historic first game at Croke Park when Ireland again coughed up a late score (France seem to have that vital knack!) while Ireland really should have had won comfortably in Scotland. But, here’s to the World Cup. The hunt is now on in earnest for tickets!  Meanwhile, the U-20s had a terrific Six Nations campaign, capturing the title and achieving a wonderful Grand Slam in the process. These wins included two memorable victories in Athlone over England and world champions France, so well done to all involved — especially Aidan Wynne — on their splendid success. UNDERAGE NEWS The underage section (youth and minis) of the club have a couple of fund-raising projects taking place in the near future. First up is ‘Bag Packing’ at Dunnes Stores in both Irishtown and Montree on Good Friday, April 6th between 11 a.m. and 9 p.m. Two-hour shifts are the order of this project. Volunteers are urged to contact our Administrator, Geraldine at 086-1732711, as soon as possible to organise rotas. The more helpers available, the easier it is. The second event is, perhaps, a more enjoyable one. It is the Annual Sponsored Cycle and it is scheduled for April 28 th . More news on that later, but sponsorship cards may now be obtained from the coaches/mentors of all underage teams. COACHING COURSE A ‘Foundation Coaching Course’ takes place in the club on next Friday evening, March 23 rd .