Club rugby returns in earnest with the commencement of the Energia All-Ireland League in which Buccaneers kick off their campaign with a home Division 2A match against Cashel at Dubarry Park on Saturday, k.o. 2.30 p.m. It’s been 18 months since Buccs last AIL match against MU Barnhall which was a rescheduled fixture and thus the very final AIL game played by any clubs before lockdown!

Much has changed in the interim and the midlanders squad will have a new look about it. Kolo Kiripati’s initial reign as Head Coach came to a premature end due to Covid-19 with only a couple of Connacht League games under his belt. However, he has been working hard in the interim with his assistant Henry Bryce and Manager Joe Browne in restructuring the squad. It will be a mainly youthful panel with tremendous potential but may lack experience. Nevertheless, the young guys are rich in promise and raring to go.

The return of Danny Qualter is a significant boost for the Pirates. The big lock, still only in his 20’s, will bring a wealth of experience and ability as well as size. Tabo Maree is an interesting recruit who will bring typical South African directness to the pack where the sterling Martin Staunton, Ruairi Byrne and Rory Grenham are featuring again.

The backline will look to Rory O’Connor and Shane Layden for leadership. Here Ross Murphy-Sweeney, Shane Mannion, Saul O’Carroll and Michael Hanley are youngsters champing at the bit. Other upcoming players vying to start are backs Thomas McGann, Eoin O’Reilly and Tom Shine, as are Sean O’Connell, Darren Browne, Fergus Galvin and Lasha Lashvilli in the pack.

Cashel will provide formidable opposition. They will have a typically competitive Munster style pack with a hardy front five that includes the Ryan brothers, Niall Fitzgerald, Richard Moran and Brendan Crosse. No.8 Mikey Wilson is a real bundle of energy. But their play is not all down to the forwards as they have the likes of wily and experienced duo Alan McMahon and Daragh Lyons in their backline where Josh Pickering is a nifty scrumhalf.

Cashel have had some good results recently in the Munster League and Cup and will be a big opening challenge for the Pirates. But if Buccs find their feet and are backed by decent home support then they can edge what is likely to be a very tight battle.

The club has lost an unprecedented number of members and/or family members since lockdown and one minute’s silence will be observed in their memory prior to kick off.