BUCCANEERS SECONDS stormed into the Connacht Junior Cup final with a comprehensive 39-14 victory over Ballinrobe at balmy Dubarry Park on Sunday. Played in front of a big attendance who also enjoyed glorious sunshine, this young Pirates crew dominated from start to finish against the visitors. They made one change to their starting line-up with Cian McCann coming in at blindside flanker. Rory Grenham, Sean O’Connell, Harry Hughes and Colin Daly were the homesters survivors from when these clubs last met in the Cup some seasons ago when Ballinrobe (who had 8 starters from that day) prevailed.

Ballinrobe arrived sporting a 100% win record this season in League and Cup but they knocked on at the kick-off and were then driven back from a subsequent scrum so they quickly realised the challenge facing them from the youthful home side. Buccs began with a purpose and tempo that rarely waivered and they looked like opening the scoring after just 5 minutes but Ryan O’Meara’s quick tap and go touchdown was not allowed. However, it merely delayed that first score when O’Meara popped the ball to Graham Lynch at the back of a scrum and the No.9 slipped in for an unconverted 7th minute try.

Three minutes later a Harry Balsiger knock-on was deemed deliberate and Steven Conroy opened Ballinrobe’s account with a penalty. Buccs negated that within a further three minutes, Colin Daly slotting over a penalty after Robe came in from the side. Buccs then put together some fine pieces of handling on the right and Sean O’Carroll stepped in at scrumhalf to link with Frank Hopkins whose skipped pass sent Jensen Nagle speeding in for a 16th minute try converted by captain Daly. The scores kept coming with Conroy slotting over a 19th minute penalty when Buccs did not release and this left the visitors trailing 15-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Seven minutes later Ross Murphy-Sweeney cleverly kicked over the cover from his own half and Hopkins raced forward to brilliantly win the chase for possession. Lynch and McCann then moved the ball to Hughes who sped in for a Buccs try, skipper Daly’s conversion rebounding off the crossbar. Balsiger put in a thumping tackle to halt a Ballinrobe attack but then hands in a ruck gave Conroy the chance to keep the Mayo side in contention with his third successful penalty. In the final move of the half, slick handling by Hopkins and O’Meara sent Hughes dashing forward but the winger ignored the support of Balsiger and Ballinrobe fullback Cillian Walsh put in a try-saving tackle. Buccs half-time advantage could have been greater than 20-9.

The first score of the second half would be crucial and the Pirates got it. Some smart handling by O’Meara, Lynch and Nagle followed a scrum near the 22 that fed Murphy-Sweeney on the right. The winger still had serious work to do in the face of a challenge by Donal Vaughan but he held off the former Mayo star to stretch over the line for a 44th minute try in The Bounty corner. Colin Daly added a splendid touchline conversion. Ten minutes later following further scrum dominance Hopkins received possession via O’Meara and O’Connell and his cute inside pass sent McCann thundering through for Buccs fifth try, Daly adding the conversion.

Within two minutes Lynch led the chase to another Murphy-Sweeney chip ahead to dot down for an unconverted try that completed Buccaneers haul. Ballinrobe battled on manfully and had the final score with Craig Hansberry finishing off a series of pick and goes. In the closing stages skipped Daly untypically lost his cool and saw out the game in the sin bin.

Overall this was a tremendous all-round squad effort by this young Buccs outfit who continue to improve game by game. Their forwards will deserve the kudos as they dismantled a more experienced Robe pack at set-pieces while the backs capitalised on that superiority to grab five of their six tries. They now advance to meet Connemara, who overcame Westport 38-10, in the final on Easter Sunday.

BUCCANEERS:- J.Nagle; R.Murphy-Sweeney, H.Balsiger, Colin Daly (captain), H.Hughes; F.Hopkins, G.Lynch; C.Fokam, R.Grenham, S.O’Connell; S.Kroupa, F.Galvin; C.McCann, C.O’Grady and R.O’Meara. Replacements:- B.McDonnell (for O’Grady, h/t), J.Scouler (for McCann, 55 mins), Cian Daly (for Grenham, 55 mins), T.Thompson (for Fokam, 55 mins), A.Evans (for Hopkins, 60 mins), R.Teape (for Hughes, 60 mins), H.Balsiger (for Lynch, 70 mins) and C.Rooney-Digan (for Nagle, 73 mins).

BALLINROBE:- C.Walsh; K.McAleenan, T.Staunton, T.Lynagh, E.Lynagh; S.Conroy, D.Vaughan; J.McTighe, B.Hynes, C.Hansberry; P.Moylette, G.Duffy; D.Madden, M.Walsh (captain) and E.McAleenan. Replacements used:- K.Staunton, P.Finlay, E.Burke, C.Varley, J.Carter, O.Gill and C.Cronin.

Referee:- Gerry Geraghty (Connacht).