BUCCANEERS and Loughrea U-16’s served up highly entertaining Bank of Ireland Connacht Cup final fare at The Sportsground on Sunday when the Athlone side emerged triumphant on a 31-12 scoreline. In unusually almost benign weather conditions at the Galway venue in front of a big attendance, the Pirates grew into the game and were fully deserving of their victory, thus returning the Enda O’Rourke Memorial Cup back to its rightful home.

Loughrea, contesting their first decider in decades, out on the 5G pitch early, made a strong start and opened the scoring after just 4 minutes. They secured possession through an intercept and Liam Murray made good yardage after which Dan Dohenry finished for a try which Jack Quinn converted. But Buccs kept their composure and were soon level. Eoin McCormack turned over ball and this led to patient probing by the Pirates with Tyler Mason being held up just short but Kailin Blessing provided swift support for an 8th minute try which Andrew Henson converted to level the scores.

Buccaneers were now beginning to force the pace but, in the face of steadfast defensive work by Loughrea, they did not finish off a number of promising moves, coughing up knock-ons and a penalty. However, the pressure was building increasingly on the Co.Galway side and Kyle Mahon did particularly well to deny them a relieving touch. He somehow conjured to gather the ball close to his right touchline and set up the final attack of the first half. Skipper Byrne and Conor McCormack carried the move on. The latter sucked in a lot of defenders and he off-loaded to Blessing to grab his second try of the final. Henson duly converted this timely score that gave Buccaneers a 14-7 lead at half-time.

Following the change of ends, Buccs swiftly ensured that their name would be on the Cup. Ever-willing to run at defenders Henson wrong-footed the Loughrea cover to notch a fine try 3 minutes into the second half. He added the conversion and then a penalty that pushed the Shannonsiders 24-7 ahead after 36 minutes.

Loughrea continued to battle and began to make ground but a promising move was foiled by Daire Byrne who intercepted just inside his own 22. The flying winger then had the gas to leave the westerners cover trailing in his wake as he raced away to touch down between the uprights for a 39th minute try converted by Henson.

Now 31-7 to the good Buccaneers could utilise their bench. Gallant Loughrea still fought with pride and were rewarded with a smartly taken try by Issac Dolan. Quinn’s conversion rebounded off an upright and the Athlonians prevailed by 31-12. Paul Casserly of Connacht Rugby presented the magnificent trophy to victorious captain Byrne, making it a Cup and League double for the young Pirates.

Blessing was outstanding in the Buccs pack where Byrne, Elliot Rooney-Digan and Daithi O’Leochain all had good moments. Mahon was pick of the backline along with Brian Doyle where the exciting Henson has immense potential.

BUCCANEERS:- A.Henson; D.Burke, E.McCormack, K.Mahon, L.Marjanovic; B.Doyle, D.Lyons; D.O’Leochain, E.Rooney-Digan, I.Jocher; T.Mason, J.O’Reilly; S.O’Connor, K.Blessing and K.Byrne (captain). Replacements:- C.McCormack (for O’Reilly, 16 mins), R.Heaslip (for Jocher, 42 mins), S.Duffy (for Marjanovic, 49 mins), J.O’Reilly (for Blessing, 55 mins), M.O’Connor (for Lyons, 57 mins), C.Hudson (for O’Leochain, 57 mins), A.McCormack (for Rooney-Digan, 57 mins), M.Turner (for E.McCormack, 57 mins) and P.O’Sullivan (for Burke, 57 mins).

LOUGHREA:- E.Cooney; L.Moretto, M.Reilly, L.Murray, S.Geraghty; J.Quinn, I.Dolan; J.Poland, E.Moloney, E.Corcoran; S.Og Clancy, E.Callan; S.McLoughlin, D.Dohenry and C.Spellman. Replacements:- G.Moloney, K.Kelly, R.Ward, C.Finnerty, J.Connors, E.Cannon, E.Elwood and H.B.Gedara.

Referee:- Michael Honan (Connacht).