BUCCANEERS entertain Malone in the Energia All-Ireland League at Dubarry Park on Saturday in a Division 1B fixture that has a later than usual kick-off time of 5.30 p.m. This will facilitate supporters to watch Ireland square up to Italy in the Six Nations championship earlier in the day.

Malone are bottom of 1B but will be battling for survival so Buccs can expect a searching test from the Belfast club. The Pirates recorded a 35-18 bonus point victory at Gibson Park but the Athlone side’s resources will be stretched for this game as injuries to Shane Layden (wrist), Oisin McCormack (hamstring) and Cian McCann (ankle) incurred in the win over UCC rule this trio out. Indeed their injuries could see them miss the remaining vital fixtures in the AIL and of course the Bateman and Connacht Cup finals. The club had been fortunate with relatively few injuries throughout the season so sustaining three in the same match is a heavy setback.

U-20’s captain Tom Shine is the probable replacement for Layden in what is likely to be an otherwise unchanged backline although Frank Hopkins may be getting back to full fitness. Another U-20 Fionn McDonnell could well replace fellow U-20 McCann in the backrow where Ryan O’Meara and Sean O’Connell will be vying for starting berths.

Malone halted a run of defeats with a gritty 17-17 draw at home to Old Wesley last Saturday. They will be desperate for a greatly needed win so Buccaneers must grant them appropriate respect. Shane Kelly and Yasser Omar will likely be a new halfback pairing for the northerners that will pose questions for the hosts.

But, if the Pirates re focussed and disciplined, they should have the wherewithal to come out on top. With a tough run in which they play the other three teams in the top four, Buccs must make home advantage pay against the Ulster side. So, come along early to The Bounty to watch the Italy v Ireland 6N game and then pop outside to support Buccs as they bid to keep their momentum going against Malone, kick-off 5.30 p.m.