BUCCANEERS AGM CELEBRATES SUCCESSFUL SEASON
Considering the club’s successes on the playing fields over the recent season there was a surprisingly sparse attendance at Buccaneers Rugby Football Club’s Annual General Meeting held in The Bounty on Wednesday last. Outgoing President Eamon Collins welcomed those present to the first AGM in two years due to the pandemic disruption. “The successes were due to everyone’s efforts” and he thanked all who had assisted at the club especially team coaches and managers who gave their time freely. The small but hard-working Executive Committee had been a huge source of support during his extended period in office and he was especially grateful for the enthusiasm and endeavour of our Administrator Geraldine Kenny to whom he presented a well-merited bouquet of flowers. He thanked “all the volunteers across the board” as well as the Ladies committee, our generous sponsors and the crew at The Bounty. “It was an honour and a privilege” to be President and he concluded by wishing all the best to the incoming committee and mentors particularly Billy McMickan who takes over as President.
Honorary Secretary Michael Cleary commenced his wide-ranging and detailed report by thanking all the officers who had agreed to remain in situ (in accordance with the club’s constitution) for two years as Covid-19 impacted on the day to day running of the club. Further a sub-committee was formed that oversaw “the implementation of Covid rules during the whole period as they applied to matches, training and socialising within the boundaries and facilities of the club”. This was an onerous and important extra workload which was carried out diligently.
The passing of Pat Hynes “after a prolonged illness bravely fought” left a massive void for he had held a key role as the club’s Facilities Manager. Despite his grave illness, Big Pat “never neglected his voluntary duties” continuing his work “until a matter of weeks before he died”. Peter Nally and John Galvin, two stalwarts on the South Westmeath GAA CE Scheme, have recently retired so there are vacancies there at time of writing. However, significant maintenance work on the pitches has been carried out lately as has remedial works on the pitches floodlighting.
Various football reports followed the Secretary’s report but Michael high-lighted two essential relevant matters that need to be addressed in the near future. Connacht Rugby has stated that “teams may be prevented from playing in their competitions from December 1st onwards unless they have fully accredited coaches”. Courses will be provided from September for coaches. Meanwhile, the appointment of a Child Welfare Officer is essential. Rory Walsh is currently filling this role on an ad hoc basis but it is a position that must be filled as soon as possible. It is a function that could be undertaken by a number of participants under the chairing of the CWO. Connacht Rugby “will insist that the vacancy be filled prior to the commencement of the new season”.
The club has over 600 members and fields squads at 20 levels including two teams at some youths’ grades. Membership subscriptions have improved due to the online payment system and the endeavours of Gordon Ballantyne. Players are exhorted to take out their own personal insurance as the IRFU scheme has limitations.
A novel “satellite training branch of the club commenced in Monksland for U-8’s, U-10’s and U-12’s under the guidance of Charlie Couper and Conor Galvin and has since moved to the grounds of Colaiste Chiarain due to its success”.
The club has lost too many people who had strong connections and involvement in the club since the previous AGM. These included Pat Hynes (President 1990/91 & 2010/11), David Egan (President 2000/01), Ray Fagan (President 2014/15), Donal Hynes (President 1970/71), Bart Flanagan, Kevin Canavan, Teresa Silke, Hazel Reid, Lola Lyster, Moira Grogan, Myrl O’Carroll, Danny O’Neill, James Blacoe, Amanda Sloane and Seamus Quinn. “May they all be with their Gods”.
Club members had supported a number of charitable causes during the past two years notably South Westmeath Hospice and also in Ukraine.
Mr. Cleary thanked all the club’s sponsors and patrons, in particular Audi Athlone, Dubarry of Ireland and Carty Meats, and all others who have contributed in various means. He added “a special word for Tom and Paschal and staff in The Bounty, who need our collective support now that the pandemic is largely over”. He thanked our Administrator Geraldine for her “friendship, loyalty to the club, commitment to everything Buccaneers stands for”. He concluded by hoping that “our members who voluntarily officiate in the club get the same satisfaction from their efforts as he does”.
Honorary Treasurer Ken Flanagan reported a modest deficit of approximately €6,000. Bearing in mind the loss of many revenue streams during the pandemic, this outcome was manageable. He advised that the club has little or no borrowings and he intends it to remain that way even if the hoped for 4G project goes ahead. Funding for this greatly needed pitch must be in place before the work is committed to, he warned. Meanwhile, the club will have to gear up fund-raising for and during the coming season to cover the regular costs involved in fielding so many teams. Here all teams will need to put their collective shoulders to the wheel.
After an inauspicious start for our First team, season 2021-22 proved immensely successful culminating in a thrilling and dramatic final Energia All-Ireland League victory away to Queen’s University that secured not only an 18-17 victory but promotion to Division 1B.
That promise was not displayed in Buccaneers two opening fixtures in the Connacht Senior League, losing both games, but wins in the remaining two fixtures saw the club finish in a lowly 4th position. However, the squad was below strength in the early stages of the year as Head Coach Kolo Kiripati and his assistant Henry Bryce found their feet and experimented with permutations and gameplans. That disappointment was soon addressed with a comfortable Senior Cup campaign that saw Buccaneers win their tenth crown. The John McCormack Cup was revived and successfully retained by Buccs.
Meanwhile in the AIL, Buccaneers made a bright start to the league keeping among the pacesetters for the first third, then undergoing a bit of a blip either side of the mid-season break, before regaining their momentum in the final straight notably scoring 60 points in two successive matches. Vital wins in the last three fixtures ensured qualification for the play-offs where Buccs really impressed away to Cashel and more crucially against high-flying and strongly fancied Queen’s to stun the Students and capture the title with the team’s best all-round performance of the year.
It was true squad effort all season with captain Evan Galvin (whom we wish well as he emigrates to Canada) leading his mainly young teammates by example. Kolo and Henry are to be complimented on their massive and influential coaching work which paid such rich dividends. Senior Manager Joe Browne also made a huge contribution particularly in getting the players to buy in to the camaraderie of the club. John Doyle, Benny Gilligan and Paul Byrne and the whole backroom team including Director of Rugby David Connolly and our Club Person of the Year Martin Webster are to be lauded for the successes, spirit and style of the team through a challenging return to rugby after lockdown. Buccs played 20 AIL matches (including semi & final), winning 12, drawing 2 and losing 6; scoring 508 points including 69 tries and conceding 369 points.
Paul and Benny along with Jimmy Digan also had a rewarding season steering the Junior squad that shows immense promise for campaigns ahead. Their youthful charges captained by Colin Daly were competitive, finishing third in the Connacht J1A league and qualified for the semi-final. They went one step further in the Junior Cup, knocking out league table-toppers Creggs away enroute. They really put it up to hot favourites Connemara in the final, outscoring the Blacks by 4 tries to 3 but went down with considerable pride and promise. They did capture silverware, winning the Cawley Cup Plate final against NUIG.
Buccaneers U-20’s enjoyed a 100% success rate in Leinster where they won all 11 league matches in the J.P.Fanagan Premier 3 Division and then continuing in similar vein in the play-offs to capture the title. They followed that up with a tremendous Harry Gale Cup success ensuring that it was the first time that both trophies were taken out of the province. Damien Shine, Gerard Fallon and Niall Quinn all contributed to this dual success with the busy Martin Staunton (who apart from playing on the Senior XV also found time to coach the Womens squad too!) leading the coaching unit.
Congratulations all round to the foregoing on a hugely successful season. With so many teams doing so well it is mystifying how Buccaneers did not win the Connacht Club of the Year award! However, there Charlie Couper received a long overdue Coach of the Year accolade.
Congrats also to our adult International representatives of whom we are so proud:- Robbie Henshaw (Ireland Senior and British & Irish Lions), Jack Carty (Ireland Senior), Luke Carty (USA Senior), David Heffernan (Ireland Senior), Finlay Bealham (Ireland Senior), Paul Boyle (Ireland Senior), Shane Jennings (Ireland Sevens & U-20), Oisin McCormack (Ireland U-20), Darragh Murray (Ireland U-20) and our first Olympian Jordan Conroy (Ireland Sevens).
Womens rugby was rejuvenated led by Mele Kiripati with primary assistance from Hazel Kilduff and coach Martin Staunton. An amalgamation with Galway Corinthians resulted in progress to the Connacht Cup final where the team was decidedly unfortunate not to win. Aoibhe Kelly, Aine Early and Ivanna Kiripati are now involved in the Connacht squad reflecting it was a positive season.
Youths Secretary Brendan Wilkins thanked all parents and volunteers who helped during restrictions. He was pleased that all youths teams finished in the top three in their respective Connacht Leagues while all teams bar one contested Connacht Cup finals. Here the U-14’s took pride of place winning a league and cup double. He urged that the promotion of girls rugby be prioritised and he congratulated Charlie Couper for his positive contribution and tireless efforts.
Minis Secretary Rory Walsh also thanked parents. A lot of work is being done by coaches at this level but more coaches are sought to assist with the burgeoning numbers taking up rugby. Minis participated in ten blitzes during the season, a number that is to be built further. A highly creditable 10 local national schools fielded 25 teams at the season ending blitz held at Dubarry Park. Again to keep all these teams on the go, fundraising efforts must be increased.
Denis O’Connor’s Touch Rugby report was further good news. 6 youths players are being capped as are 3 adults. The club ran the only IRFU sanctioned adult events in 2020/21 and the Summer League provided a case study for the IRFU. Buccaneers is the leading host club for Touch Rugby. Meanwhile Rory Silke continues his family’s tradition of rugby volunteerism with his management role for the Ireland M45 squad who will be competing in the European championships next month.