The English Premiership is not the only sport with an early starting date this season as Connacht club rugby gets under way this coming weekend when Buccaneers host Galwegians in the opening round of the Connacht Senior League. The action and indeed the season kicks off in Dubarry Park on Saturday at 2.30 p.m.

At this stage of the season squad news is limited ahead of this encounter between two of the province’s keenest rivals. Both clubs fared poorly in last year’s Connacht League and will be eager to address that this time round. Buccs improved immeasurably as the season progressed, capturing the Connacht Senior Cup before winning promotion to Division 1B in the All-Ireland League. Wegians had a torrid AIL campaign but came good when it mattered in the closing furlong to preserve their Division 2B status, consigning Connacht League winners Ballina to Division 2C in the process.

On the foregoing stats, Buccs will be favourites particularly with home advantage. But form and expectations can go out the window in duels between these two great rivals. The Pirates successful run in the AIL was boosted by the availability of their Connacht Academy contingent but they are not allowed play in the Connacht League. Thus the Shannonsiders, under new head coach Eddie O’Sullivan, will look to Martin Staunton (captain for this season), Shane Layden, Danny Qualter and Stephen Mannion to lead from the front.

Michael Hanley, Frankie Hopkins, Rory O’Connor, Saul O’Carroll and Tom Shine are lively options in the backline while young forwards Cian McCann, Darren Browne, James Kelly and Sean O’Connell will be striving to lay down markers for starting berths. Returning head coach O’Sullivan has had his charges back training since early July so he should have strong ideas on team selection at this stage. If all the aforementioned players are available on Saturday, the midlanders can make a positive beginning under the former Ireland supremo.