BUCCANEERS dominated the Bank of Ireland Connacht U-18.5 Cup final from the start as this group finally inflicted defeat on their nemesis Sligo to forge a convincing 31-14 victory in glorious sunshine at the Dexcom Stadium on Sunday. This Buccs squad had been second best to the north-westerners at various age levels in recent years, so this comprehensive win was therefore all the more welcome and sweeter for the Athlone club.

The breeze had changed direction from the opening fixture and favoured Buccs at the start during which they dominated territory. The midlanders were unchanged from their semi-final game, played in atrocious weather and a sodden pitch, but the unusually summer-like conditions and the firm surface in Galway were much more to their liking.

A smashing Dylan Bruton break in which he arced away from a number of would-be tacklers looked like unlocking the opposing cover but he was denied when his chip over the defence took a wicked bounce away from him. But just a minute later, Buccs grabbed a lead that they never looked like relinquishing when Lorcan McCormack finished off another super attack for a 13th minute try at the left corner. Charlie O’Carroll’s touchline conversion rebounded off an upright.

A Danny Reid break kept the Shannonsiders momentum bubbling before Patrick Egan and Niall Tallon drove forward with the No.8’s clever kick ahead presenting Conor Dowling with the type of opportunity he thrives on and the winger won the chase to notch a 20th minute try, this time at the right corner, for a 10-0 lead. Sligo missed a penalty shortly afterwards and the dynamic Egan piled further agony on them when he stormed through to dot down between the uprights for a 30th minute try. Charlie O’Carroll duly added the conversion and the Pirates were in full sail, 17-0 ahead at half-time.

Buccs continued their front-row rotation policy for the second half and it took Eoin Naughton just three minutes to make an impact. O’Carroll got quick ball away from a ruck and the replacement hooker was soon scampering away for a try which O’Carroll converted.
As Sligo endeavoured to counter a few minutes later, Bruton swooped on possession and knifed through the cover and he sped away from half-way to dot down at the posts. O’Carroll’s conversion gave Buccaneers an unassailable 31-0 advantage, even though there was almost half-an-hour yet to play.

Following a brief flare-up, Thomas Cotton was yellow-carded for apparent retaliation while injury forced Bruton’s withdrawal. Understandably, Buccs focus and intensity dropped and Sligo finally got on the scoreboard with a try converted by Mark Tempany. The north-westerners continued to battle and were further rewarded with a late Kealan Schoen try, the conversion completing the 31-14 scoreline.

Buccs dominated all sectors of this encounter with Sligo unable to curtail their international backrow trio of Egan, Tallon and Sean Rohan while lock Callum Kelly led by example in the forwards battles. Scrumhalf O’Carroll controlled matters while his halfback partner Reid kept it tidy and simple. The two Toms in the centre were nigh on impenetrable while Bruton was the leading threat in an exciting back three. Well done to all the players in this squad and their coaches/management team.

Connacht President Michael O’Hehir complimented both teams on an exciting, skillful and sporting final before joint captains Danny Reid and Callum Kelly were presented with the Cup by Alan Noone of Bank of Ireland.

BUCCANEERS:- D.Bruton; C.Dowling, T.Cotton, T.Sheehan, L.McCormack; D.Reid (joint captain), C.O’Carroll; J.Casey, E.McMickan, N.Robinson; M.Fallon, C.Kelly (joint captain); S.Rohan, P.Egan and N.Tallon. Replacements:- E.Naughton (for McMickan, h/t), A.Oates (for Robinson, h/t), A.Saka (for Fallon, 52 mins), J.Bourdon, G.Murphy, M.Droust, M.S.Radebe, J.McCormack and D.Gavin.

SLIGO:- C.Regan; D.Gallagher, R.O’Connor, E.Keane, J.Draper; M.Tempany, J.Rooney; A.Platt, M.O’Hehir, C.Lang; A.Shovelin, T.Walsh (captain); K.Schoen, M.Hunter and I.Marsden. Replacements:- A.Gilgan, E.O’Beirne, J.Gilmartin, Q.Moughty, B.O’Hehir, C.O’Neill, A.O’Carroll, K.Roper, B.Hayes and C.Fernandez-Hatre.

Referee:- Michael Honan (Connacht).