Buccaneers put their Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League title on the line at Hamilton Park, Strandhill, on Saturday when they face Sligo in what should be a mouth-watering contest at the coastal venue. Kick-off is 2.30 p.m.

These two clubs have been the dominant Senior forces in recent seasons with the midlanders holding the edge over the north-westerners. Buccs recorded a Cup and League double last season over the men from Yeats County. The Pirates were the stronger outfit in the Cup final but were decidedly fortunate to pip Sligo in what was effectively the league decider last season. Trailing by 10 points with just 4 minutes to go, Buccs storming finish yielded a brace of tries, one converted, to snatch a dramatic victory.

This denied Sligo adding to their solitary Senior League title but, on home soil, they will be more than keen to dethrone the visitors. Their results to date indicate that they are capable of doing just that, boasting a far superior scoring difference than the holders.
Sligo have a big, physical pack that has caused many problems for Buccs in recent outings. Hooker Matthew Earley captains the side that has big hitters in Kuba Wojtkowicz, Ambrose Bamber and Archie Maclean in their pack. Euan Brown is a highly consistent place-kicker, so discipline will be vital for the champions. Brendan Cunningham and Philip Carter are other experienced operators in the backline where Louis McVitty is highly promising.

Buccs were disappointed that their fixture against Ballina did not go ahead as another match would have been of real value as they have scope for improvement. They will be hoping that the new Pirates skipper Frank Hopkins, who takes over the mantle from the retired Martin Staunton, will be fit for Saturday’s showdown. Last season’s player of the year Ruairi Byrne is also an absentee from the pack where Danny Qualter, Sean O’Connell, Ryan O’Meara and James Kelly can be counted on to compete from start to finish. Cian McCann, Fergus Galvin, Oisin Dolan and Dylan Bolger are younger players with much to offer.

Shane Layden made a welcome return to action in the win at Galwegians and he will provide vital nous in the backline where Stephen Mannion, Michael Hanley, Harry Balsiger and Ross Murphy-Sweeney pose an attacking threat. Recent arrivals Conor O’Shaughnessy and Mark Earle are likely starters while Cian Daly and Cormac Lyons could be added to the mix.

It looks like being a cracking contest in which the winner takes all the spoils. The tighter confines of Hamilton Park just may give the challengers an edge, but it is the team that performs on the day that will likely prevail. To date Buccs have been able to do that but nothing less that 100% commitment, discipline and enterprise from start to finish will suffice on Saturday when support for the Pirates will be crucial. So let’s see big numbers travel there to cheer on Buccaneers!

Meanwhile, Buccs U-20’s continue their preparations for the competitive season with another friendly in Dublin. This time they pit themselves against Blackrock College at Stradbrook on Sunday, kick off 2 p.m.