BUCCANEERS retained the Bank of Ireland Connacht U-16 Cup deservedly coming out on top by 32-10 over Sligo in a lively decider contested at sun-drenched Dexcom Stadium on Sunday. Two early tries set the Shannonsiders on their way and they kept the north-westerners at arms-length thereafter to ensure that the Enda O’Rourke Memorial Cup remained “home” in Athlone.

Philip Finnan opened the scoring after just 4 minutes following a penalty to touch on the right from which possession was moved smartly infield and the livewire fullback flashed over the Sligo line for a try on the left. John Paul Flanagan opened the Yeats County boys account with a penalty three minutes later but Buccs responded quickly. Owen Egan blocked an attempted clearance and the busy scrumhalf then won the race to touchdown for a 9th minute try. Ruairi Dolan, whose first conversion rebounded off an upright in the diagonal breeze, found the range with a 13th minute penalty won following an end-to-end attack to put Buccaneers 13-3 ahead.

Buccs were dominating but a couple of over-elaborate passes spoiled further try opportunities. One of these, an unnecessary skipped effort, was to prove costly as it gave possession to Sligo who then went through the phases to score a try wide on the left by Daniel Allen. Flanagan matched this endeavour with a fine touchline conversion to tighten the margin to 13-10 after 28 minutes. The Pirates retort was instant, forcing a scrum from the restart before slick hands moved the ball to the right where Darragh Glennon’s desire and strength was rewarded with a try. Dolan’s conversion put the Athlonians ahead by double scores 20-10 at the interval.

Sligo needed the first score following the change of ends but Peter Bourke put in a try-saving tackle in the early moments of the second half. Ten minutes into this period an impressive maul by Buccs was finished off by James Kelly for an unconverted try. They then held their opponents scoreless throughout the second half. Nathan Kelly powered over between the uprights following a tapped penalty and Dolan’s conversion completed the 32-10 victory for this exciting Buccaneers crew.

Buccs were highly impressive for vast swathes of this encounter, displaying sharp handling on the offensive but also showing relentless and disciplined defending when necessary. All in all, it was a near complete performance apart from an occasional lineout blip. Glennon was imperious in the backline where Finnan and Egan also caught the eye. Nathan Kelly had key moments in a solid contribution by a well-balanced Pirates’ pack. Well done to all members of this squad and their coaches/management team.

Connacht President Michael O’Hehir complimented both teams on an exciting, skillful and sporting final before Ciaran West was presented with the Cup by Alan Noone of Bank of Ireland.

BUCCANEERS:- P.Finnan; J.Paul, D.Glennon, O.O’Donoghue, A.Cotton; R.Dolan, O.Egan; C.West (captain), J.Kelly, A.Brown; E.Claffey, P.Bourke; H.Hannon, R.Colleran and N.Kelly. Replacements:- D.Dullea, P.D.Sunny, F.De Tena, T.Coleman, J.Walshe, A.Connor, J.Bourke, S.Nugent, D.Cleary and E.O’Sullivan.

SLIGO:- L.McLoughlin, J.Kiernan, C.O’Hehir, R.Mullan, D.Allen; J.P.Flanagan, G.Gambi-Whelan; R.Galvan, H.Og Arnold, A.N.Jimenez; O.McNamara, F.Kavanagh-Beirne; J.Kells, E.Ezema and C.Moffat. Replacements:- D.Fahey, C.Fayne, B.Irwin, E.Rooney, H.Lewis, R.Colreavy, G.McGowan, T.O’Rourke and T.Kelly.

Referee:- David Andreu (Connacht).