BUCCANEERS commence this season’s Energia All-Ireland League with a trip north to the historic City of Armagh to take on one of Ireland’s oldest clubs on Saturday. The Pirates won the 2A title in dramatic fashion to gain promotion and they begin life in 1B at the Palace Grounds where the action kicks off at 2.30 p.m.

City of Armagh finished in sixth position last season, comfortably above the bottom four. They have made a fine start this season with Ulster League victories over Banbridge and Malone (who are both also in AIL Div 1B) and Queen’s University (not easy as we know) before suffering their first defeat last weekend away to Ballynahinch.

Head Coach Chris Parker has utilised the league to experiment with formations and styles and seems to have good competition for starting berths. Centre Tim McNeice captains the team and outhalf Romaine Morrow has proved a highly consistent placekicker while the experienced Andrew Wills is a threat on the wing. Highly promising hooker James McCormick has transferred from Ballymena and Neil Faloon and Paul Mullen are very durable forwards in what looks like a much-changed squad since Buccs last visited the Palace Grounds.

For their part, Buccaneers too will have a vastly different look from their last trip to the Orchard county. Now coached by former Ireland supremo Eddie O’Sullivan, the Pirates squad is primarily young. Last season’s player of the year Ciaran Booth is unavailable as he is in the Connacht squad currently in South Africa alongside another young Bucc Sam Illo. With Evan Galvin emigrated, Martin Staunton takes up the captain’s reins for a third stint. The evergreen prop is likely to be joined by Matthew Burke and Darren Browne in the front row with James Kelly and Sean O’Connell also in contention to start. Darragh Murray and Ruairi Byrne are the probable combination at lock where Fergus Galvin will provide a solid option. Oisin McCormack is the Duracell bunny in the backrow where Danny Qualter’s unavailability will be problematic.

Buccs backs unit has a good cutting edge with young players Stephen Mannion, Saul O’Carroll, Michael Hanley, Shane Jennings and Ruaidhri Fallon improving constantly. There is serious competition at scrumhalf where the Reillys, Colm and Will, will be vying to start as will Frank Hopkins. Shane Layden will give leadership and guile in this sector where Harry West could debut and Orrin Burgess is also a contender.

Coach O’Sullivan will have lots to contemplate and work on following his return from the USA. Buccs will be buoyed by their latest Connacht Senior League title success, and especially the battling qualities shown in winning it. It will be crucial to hit the ground running, be disciplined and maintain workrate from start to finish. If they get the basics right, then a cracking opener to this season’s All-Ireland League is in prospect.


BUCCANEERS U-20’s travel to Galway again next Sunday for their second J.P.Fanagan qualifier away to Galwegians at Crowley Park. Buccs did not click as well as they are capable of against Corinthians and paid the price. Nothing less than a victory at Glenina will suffice if they are to prolong their Division 2 ambitions. It will be a tough test especially as Cian McCann and probably Ruaidhri Fallon too will be absent. Kick off is 2.30 p.m.

BUCCANEERS THIRDS are also on the road West on Sunday. They take on Gort in Pool B of the 15-a-side Cup with the action getting under way at 2.30 p.m. Their first fixture for this revived Buccs squad did not materialise last Sunday as Loughrea, who defeated Gort 20-0 in their opening game, where unable to field.