BUCCANEERS SECONDS came unstuck against Westport in their final Connacht Junior 1A fixture at Dubarry Park on Sunday afternoon. Heavy rain preceded the kick-off, resulting in a heavy pitch more suited to the beefier visitors, while the hosts also incurred a late reshuffle in their pack with Ryan O’Meara coming in for Cathal O’Grady. In the gloomy wet, windy and cold conditions, the closeness of the teams’ colours matched the on-field exchanges.

Buccs made a bright start to go 6-0 up inside ten minutes, Andrew Evans slotting over a brace of penalties from the left. The 13th minute proved unlucky for the stand-off as his third placekick, this time from the right, rebounded back into play off an upright. Four minutes later missed tackles by both home wingers resulted in a Des McCormack try for the Blue Bulls. Evans third successful penalty put Buccs 9-5 to the good after 24 minutes but the Pirates were exposed in midfield just five minutes later when Aidan Walsh swiftly tapped a penalty in midfield and finished in flamboyant style for a try between the uprights. Sam Walsh’s conversion gave the Mayo side a 12-9 lead at half-time.

As the conditions deteriorated the game became very scrappy and Buccs missed the probings of the unavailable Graham Lynch and the pack leadership of Brian McDonnell. A Sam Walsh penalty pushed Westport 15-9 ahead at the end of the third quarter. Then a high tackle on O’Meara seemed to galvanise the Athlone side and, although facing the considerable elements, they now attacked strongly forcing the visitors to concede a series of penalties. Eventually a sweet crossfield kick by Colin Daly was spot on for Harry Balsiger to finish for a 73rd minute try in the right corner. With Evans withdrawn, skipper Daly took on the place-kicking duty but his conversion tailed wide while Westport’s Darragh Maher was sin-binned.

But in the final moments as Buccs counter-attacked, wily Westport fullback Kevin Corcoran intercepted near halfway and had the legs to make it to the line for an unconverted try that sealed the 20-14 victory for his side. This secured fourth place for the north-westerners who now face Creggs in the play-offs. Meanwhile, Buccs losing bonus point confirms their third place in the league but with it a long trip to Clifden for their play-off semi-final. The shorter trip and firmer surface at Creggs may have been a preferred option! Nevertheless, on their day, this developing Pirates crew can challenge the best and will be focussed for their duel with Connemara. O’Meara, returning after a lengthy absence, was the home side’s most impressive performer and he got good support in the pack from Fergus Galvin and the various front row permutations. Evans and Eoin O’Carroll were pick of the backs.

BUCCANEERS:- E.O’Carroll; H.Hughes, R.Murphy-Sweeney, R.Teape, C.Rooney-Digan; A.Evans, Colin Daly (captain); J.Kelly, R.Grenham, S.O’Connell; S.Kroupa, F.Galvin; L.Doyle, R.Flanagan and R.O’Meara. Replacements:- G.Fallon (for Evans, h/t), C.Fokam (for Kelly, h/t), J.Scouler (for Doyle, 47 mins), Cian Daly (for Grenham, 47 mins), J.Kelly (for O’Connell, 63 mins), H.Balsiger (for Rooney-Digan, 65 mins) and R.Grenham (for Flanagan, 67 mins).

WESTPORT:- K.Corcoran (captain); E.Aylward, S.Loftus, A.Sheridan, P.O’Malley; S.Walsh, A.Walsh; D.McCormack, R.Bourke, B.McLoughlin; E.Dunning, C.Ryan; D.O’Malley, M.Ryder and C.O’Brien. Replacements used:- C.Dyra, A.Duffy, D.Maher, I.Walsh and C.Sammon.