BUCCANEERS were desperately disappointed to leave Dooradoyle empty-handed after last Saturday’s Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B fixture at the windy and showery Limerick venue where Garryowen emerged with a 33-17 victory.

With most influential forward Danny Qualter joining skipper Frank Hopkins on the injury list and no Academy players available, the Pirates resources were really stretched as the midlanders made four enforced changes to their starting XV. Martin Staunton and Gavin Daly started in the pack with Mark Earle and Conor O’Shaughnessy returning in the backline where Stephen Mannion moved to fullback. Meanwhile, the hosts had a solitary change with Des Fitzgerald getting the nod ahead of Oisin Cooke in the pack.

Showers arrived just ahead of kick-off when one minute’s silence was observed in honour of Pat Byrne, father of Buccaneers head coach Paul.
In the dull conditions on a good surface, Buccs had an early setback when Leo MacFarlane was yellow carded for an apparent deliberate knock-on after 6 minutes. They had a let off 4 minutes later when Garryowen were denied a try for an offside infringement and the game was still scoreless when the Pirates scrumhalf rejoined the action.

A Shane Layden grubber kick got a foothold in the home 22 and they soon forced a penalty which was punted to touch on the right. From the lineout the ball was moved infield and Buccs forwards made steady inroads with James Kelly’s desire and strength earning him a touchdown left of the uprights for a 19th minute try. Michael Hanley’s conversion was weak but 4 minutes later he duly converted Kelly’s second try following further strong play by the pack. This emanated after another penalty to touch following a high tackle and Buccs were 12-0 to the good.

The midlanders, though depleted, were dominating and Garryowen conceded another penalty which Buccs kicked to touch on the right. However, this lineout inside the 22 went awry and the light blues countered swiftly with J.J.O’Neill opening his side’s account with 29th minute try. Jack Oliver’s conversion reduced their arrears to just 5 points against the run of play.

Three minutes later Buccs were unlucky not to add to their tally when Earle’s diagonal kick was just a shade too strong for Orrin Burgess to get to while Colm Hogan won the race to deny O’Shaughnessy getting to a downfield kick. But a chip ahead in the final minute caused consternation in the home ranks with fullback Hogan knocking on. Buccs opted for a close-in scrum and piled pressure on the Limerick side’s defence. The Pirates pack remained patient and composed but it was fullback Mannion who profited, squeezing under a horde of bodies for a try just left of the posts. Hanley’s conversion disappointingly rebounded off an upright but Buccs were good value for their 17-7 advantage at half-time.

The breeze was more significant as the game progressed and Buccaneers were now also playing against the slope following the change of ends. O’Shaughnessy caught the restart but unwisely attempted to run the ball and was tackled into touch near the 22. Garryowen maintained their territory, being held up over the Buccs line, before their pressure told and Hogan dived over for a 45th minute unconverted try.
A clearance straight into touch helped the light blues remain on the offensive and they capitalised on a penalty to touch with a forwards drive following the lineout being finished by Donnacha Byrne. Oliver’s conversion of this 49th minute try edged the homesters into the lead.

Buccaneers then enjoyed a spell of sustained pressure inside the home 22 around the hour mark, going tantalisingly close to adding to their try tally which would have yielded a priceless bonus point. Garryowen conceded a number of penalties in this phase with referee Stuart Douglas having cause to speak to the home captain. Surprisingly no sign of a yellow card but just a few minutes later, when the Munster side had made ground following a loose Buccs clearance, the referee incredibly sin-binned Ryan O’Meara who had simply queried “was their carry a maul?” Inconsistent officiating is infuriating and frustrating but Garryowen thanked their lucky stars, opted for a five-metre scrum and drove over for a 64th minute Byrne try that secured their bonus point. Oliver added the conversion to push their lead to 26-17.

Buccs continued to battle bravely as Jeronimo Ureta Saenz Pena’s 71st high tackle finally saw yellow with the lock sin-binned. Four minutes later Buccs suffered another high tackle but nothing other than a penalty was awarded while Layden was halted short of the home line after a quick tap and go, a double movement ending this Pirates attack.

Then in the final move Garryowen “garryowened” the ball downfield where two Buccs substitutes got their signals mixed up and allowed the ball to bounce. Dylan Hicks gleefully accepted this gift to notch a try and Oliver’s conversion completed the 33-17 margin that flattered the home outfit.

So a disappointing outcome to a game that promised more than expected for much of the contest. Buccs did not enjoy the best of luck but errors cost them dearly with four Garryowen tries emanating from basic errors by the midlanders. Nevertheless, it was a heartening and sustained endeavour from a stretched squad with the efforts of the pack understandably fading in the closing stages against a bigger home unit. Victory sees Garryowen move up another notch to fourth in the league.

GARRYOWEN:- C.Hogan; J.J.O’Neill, B.Fitzgerald (captain), J.Delaney, C.Quilligan; K.Langan, J.Oliver; G.Hadden, D.Fanning, M.Veale; J.Ureta Saenz Pena, K.Seymour; D.Fitzgerald, D.Byrne and S.Rennison. Replacements:- D.McCarthy (for Veale), J.Keane (for Fitzgerald), D.Hicks (for Langan), J.Daly (for Rennison), N.Greene (for Delaney) and B.O’Sullivan (for Fanning).

BUCCANEERS:- S.Mannion; C.O’Shaughnessy, S.Layden (captain), M.Earle, O.Burgess; M.Hanley, L.MacFarlane; J.Kelly, O.Dolan, M.Staunton; F.Galvin, R.O’Meara; G.Daly, C.Walsh and C.McCann. Replacements:- F.McDonnell (for Daly, 51 mins), C.Byrne (for Staunton, 65 mins), T.Shine (for O’Shaughnessy, 65 mins), J.Nagle (for Hanley, 70 mins), H.Balsiger and D.Bolger.

Referee:- Stuart Douglas (IRFU).