The Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior Cup final takes place on Saturday next with the province’s Blue Riband decider, disappointingly, not being staged at the Dexcom Stadium this season. Indeed, the date has also been brought forward from its more recent St. Patrick’s Day slot on the calendar. This is also the day when Ireland play England in what is arguably the pivotal Six Nations fixture so, to this writer, it is a less than ideal date to choose for the Cup final.

League champions Sligo and Cup holders Buccaneers will now battle for the silverware at Hamilton Park, Strandhill, as the north-westerners won the toss for host venue. Kick-off is scheduled at 2 p.m.

Sligo have won the Cup just three times, their first success being in 1913/14. Surprisingly, they had to wait over 100 years to claim their second triumph in 2017/18 but it took just another two seasons to capture their third. Equally surprising is that this long-established and renowned club did not capture a League title until 2019/20 when they secured a Senior double. They will be hell bent on repeating that on Saturday.

Sligo are motoring nicely in AIL 2B, currently comfortably in fourth position following a 25-24 home victory over Instonians that ended the northerners AIL record of 32 successive wins. They also accounted for Buccs early in the season in what was effectively the league decider by 49-17. The margin may have flattered them but they were much the better outfit on the day so they will be hot favourites and confident for Saturday’s showdown.

Meanwhile, Buccaneers have struggled in AIL 1B this season where they have been inconsistent. Injuries have blighted their cause and a shoulder injury at Old Belvedere last Saturday rules out their most potent performer Cian McCann for this decider. Other key players Danny Qualter and Orrin Burgess look likely to be other absentees through injury so the Athlone club’s quest for a three-in-a-row Cup triumphs will really be put to the test. The Pirates crew is likely to be youthful and spirited and may lack the power and guile of the hosts. Nevertheless, Stephen Mannion, Shane Layden and Frankie Hopkins will provide leadership in the backline while James Kelly, Fergus Galvin, Ryan O’Meara and Cathal Walsh can be counted on to give it their best shot in the forwards exchanges.

The match is being live-streamed by Connacht Rugby at Cost is €5.

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