U-20’s of 2003 CELEBRATE!
Adding to the buzz at Dubarry Park last Saturday was a reunion of Buccaneers U-20 squad of 2003 who reached the All-Ireland Final that season. Close on forty members of that squad gathered in The Bounty where some of them still looked fit enough to play (and some perhaps not!). It was a most enjoyable reunion and well done to Ray Flanagan and Michael Kiely on driving this event.
BUCCS U-20’s celebrate a 20th!
Joining us at today’s Energia All-Ireland League game against St. Mary’s College are players and mentors from Buccaneers U-20 squad of 20 years ago. We welcome them all to The Bounty and Dubarry Park and we look forward to meeting up with them all again, especially those still active and involved around the club!
In 2003 the club’s U-20’s reached the All-Ireland National League final. This was the result of sustained effort over a number of years to create an U-20 Academy that would nurture and develop players at this key age grade with the aim of them being physically and technically able to compete at the next level in the senior AIL.
With less than a handful of clubs in Connacht fielding at U-20, there was little competition in the province. Hence the Athlone club got permission to play in the Munster U-20 league where they tested their mettle against renowned clubs including Shannon, Cork Constitution, Young Munster and Garryowen. The club also developed a strong collaboration with the Athlone Institute of Technology (now Technological University of the Shannon), resulting in players joining from the wider midlands area and indeed a quartet from South Africa were performing in the Pirates colours in 2003.
Coached by Charlie Couper and Jude Lennon, Buccs Academy managed jointly by Ray Flanagan and Michael Kiely played 18 high intensity competitive AIL games in season 2002-03, progressing to the knock-out stages from a tough South-Western section in Munster but were forced to play Bruff in a further qualifier at a neutral venue where a late try edged the verdict 13-9 in favour of the midlanders. That earned them an away quarter-final against Belfast Harlequins where the young Pirates kept battling to the very end up north and another late try saw them deservedly prevail by the narrowest of margins 20-19.
The prize for that victory was another away date, this time in the opposite direction to the real capital and Cork Constitution. Con had been runaway winners of the South-Western section and were hot favourites, not only to overcome Buccs but to win the national title. But the Athlone side revelled in their underdogs role and put in a top-drawer performance, particularly in defence, in a tight semi-final battle to win 9-6 and earn the right to contest a first AIL final by any Buccaneers team.
So it was on the road for a fourth successive weekend, this time a shorter trip to North Kildare’s grounds in Kilcock to take on Dublin University, the oldest club in the world in continuous existence. Alas it proved a hurdle too far, Buccaneers cause not helped by injuries including to key No.8 David Kelly who failed a pre-match fitness test. Two first half tries put Trinity, led by their soon to be famous No.8 Jamie Heaslip, in control. Buccaneers, skippered by Rob O’Toole, made it a contest to the very end at which they came up short on a 22-13 scoreline.
Nevertheless, 2002/3 proved a memorable and highly successful season for this U-20’s squad, eight of whom featured on the Connacht U-21 panel and a further four on the Connacht U-19 side. Conor O’Loughlin and David Connellan both played professionally subsequently with the former capped by Ireland U-21’s while the latter captained Ireland Schoolboys team. Coincidentally both were scrumhalfs although David was also a more than competent flyhalf/fullback! David Kelly was another to wear the green of Ireland. Overall it was a hugely beneficial campaign for the squad and also rewarding later for Buccaneers as many of these young players developed and progressed to feature on the Senior in the years ahead, again coached ironically by another scrumhalf Tony Dolan for many seasons.
Meanwhile, that trend continues with quite a number of the current U-20 crop, such as Tom Shine, Cian McCann, Fionn McDonnell, Oisin Dolan and Orrin Burgess challenging for positions on today’s Senior squad.
Buccaneers RFC squad 2003
Coaches:- Charlie Couper & Jude Lennon
Managers:- Ray Flanagan & Michael Kiely
Club President:- Tommy Conlon
Robert O’Toole (captain)
Alan Earle Alan Kavanagh Alan Roche Alex Curry
Anthony Downey Anthony Hughes Austin Diffley Brian Kelly
Brian Moore Cathal Scott Clifford Richardson Conor Galvin
Conor O’Loughlin David Connellan David Kelly David Russell
Denis Murray Doran Harte Dylan Rodgers Emmett Egan
Enda Haughey Eoin Kelly Fergal Darcy Gary Connelly
Gary Greene Gerry Glynn James Tormey John Crowell
John Kermath Johnny Farrell Joseph Burke Karl Turley
Keith Newton Kieran O’Gorman Kieran Sloyan M.J. Millhouse
Marcus Madden Martin Carey Martin Glynn Michael Collins
Niall Lennon Paul McVeigh Peter Beirne Philip Condron
Pierce Breen Pierre Cronje Ronan Farrell Ronan Lawlor
Ronnie Guinan Rory McGowan Sean Brady Sean Byrne
Sean Quinn Stuart Meagher Thomas Moore Thomas Rickard
Thomas Rock Trevor Richardson Vincent Glennon
Buccaneers RFC gratefully acknowledge the generosity of the following sponsors on two fronts. Firstly their patronage ensures that today’s celebration is taking place and, secondly, they are also contributing to the funding of the current U-20 squad at the club. We urge you to support our sponsors when and as often as you can.
A&M Insulations, Athlone
Barry Group, Mallow
Bridge Fund Management Limited, Dublin 4
Boyne Valley Foods, Drogheda
Excellence Foods, Baldoyle
Glasson Lakehouse, Glasson
Jetwash International Ltd., Carrigallen
KG Insulations Ltd., Athlone
Kieran O’Gorman Solicitors, Letterkenny
North Kildare Rugby Football Club, Kilcock
Peter Hanley Motors Ltd., Ballymahon
Seery’s Cash & Carry, Athlone
Stephens Cooke & Associates, Athlone
The Bounty Bar & Venue, Athlone
The Monastery Inn, Clonard
Technological University of the Shannon, Athlone
Top Up Hospitality Ltd., Dublin
Zodiac Stainless Steel Products, Birmingham