Relegation now an end of season prospect as Buccaneers taste Dubarry Park defeat


michael silke

As had been the case in Cork earlier in the season Buccaneers were out-muscled by a bulkier Highfield outfit in their Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B encounter at Dubarry Park on Saturday when the visitors won by 24-7.

Defeat for the Pirates (and a bonus point secured by Queen’s University ) means that the midlanders are now inevitably destined for 2A next season.

Buccs run of misfortune continued before kick-off with illness ruling Ryan O’Meara out while Oisin Dolan failed a late fitness test, joining recent additions Cian McCann and Cathal Walsh to the injured list. Consequently, the Shannonsiders had four changes from the narrow defeat away to Old Belvedere last time out with Martin Staunton, Brendan Fagan, Luke Balsiger and Oisin McCormack coming into their pack. Meanwhile, Highfield had the luxury of a very settled side with their captain Miah Cronin returning at No.8 being their only change.

On a bright but cold afternoon, Highfield had first benefit of the breeze in front of a sparse attendance but the homesters made a promising start. McCormack made ground on a couple of occasions and a Fagan tackle forced a turnover in the early exchanges. Fionn McDonnell won lineout ball on the visitors’ ten metre line popping possession to Frank Hopkins who linked with Mark Earle. The outhalf burst through the cover to run in for a ninth minute try near the uprights and he duly added the conversion.

Unfortunately, Buccs seemed to lose sight of the restart coming out of the sun and Highfield got good territory where they opted for a scrum following a penalty award. Buccs were in difficulty in this set-piece from the start and Cronin broke to send Jamie Shanahan in for a try at the posts. Shane O’Riordan added the conversion to level the scores 7-7 after just 12 minutes.

Nine minutes later another strong drive by the Rebels pack following a penalty to the right saw Cronin involved again, this time sending Richard Cassidy in for an unconverted try. Buccs responded with carries by McCormack and McDonnell but twice in quick succession got no benefit or penalties from advantage situations.

Buccs inability to deal with Highfield mauls was high-lighted again on 28 minutes with Cassidy the beneficiary for his second try, this one converted by O’Riordan to stretch the visitors lead to 19-7. Soon afterwards, Matthew Victory retrieved possession for Buccs and kicked ahead but the cover got across just in time to deny the chasing Josh O’Connor. Just before half-time, Buccs got the upperhand at a scrum when the Highfield front row went down close to their line, yet puzzlingly no penalty was awarded in favour of the hosts who trailed 7-19 at the interval.

Buccs needed the get the first score of the second half if they were to stage a comeback. However, Ross O’Neill found a gap in the home cover just three minutes after the change of ends and he had the gas to surge in from distance for his side’s bonus point try. Shortly afterwards McCormack and Ben Murphy were yellow-carded following the intervention of a touch-judge, who later missed off-the-ball punches by a Highfield lock on Daniel Hawkshaw right in his line of sight!

Stephen Mannion made a great break for the Pirates around the hour mark but did not make the most of his options and a glorious chance went abegging while Highfield’s Murphy knocked-on when he had the home tryline in view. There was not much of note from either side in the final quarter as the game petered to its conclusion. McCormack at No.8, in his first match in 13 months, showed he has not lost any of his zest for battle and Mannion were prominent for Buccaneers for whom Fagan, in only his second AIL start and his first in 11 years, earned the Audi Athlone Man of the Match accolade.

BUCCANEERS:- S.Mannion; J.O’Connor, S.Layden, D.Hawkshaw, T.Shine; M.Earle, F.Hopkins (captain ); J.Kelly, M.Victory, M.Staunton; F.Galvin, F.McDonnell; L.Balsiger, B.Fagan and O.McCormack. Replacements:- S.Fogarty (for Balsiger, 24 mins ), F.Murray (for Staunton, 26 mins ), M.Staunton (for Kelly, 44 mins ), L.MacFarlane (for Shine, 57 mins ), D.Bolger (for Victory, inj. 64 mins ), C.Byrne (for McCormack, 66 mins ), J.Kelly (for Staunton, 69 mins ), L.Balsiger (for McCormack, 69 mins ) M.Hanley (for Layden, 69 mins ).

Buccaneers Away to UCC

Buccaneers final away match of this season’s Energia All-Ireland League sees the squad head south to Cork where they face University College Cork at The Mardyke on Easter Saturday. Kick-off for this Division 1B game is 2.30pm. College are nestled safely in mid-table while Buccaneers require more than one miracle to stave off relegation. The Pirates squad has been badly hit by injuries recently but they must still play with pride despite their precarious position.

Pre-Match Function for St Mary’s Contest

Buccaneers host champions St Mary’s College in their final Energia All-Ireland League fixture on Saturday, April 6. Groups or individuals can be catered for. Kindly contact club administrator Geraldine at 0861732711 to book.


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