BUCCANEERS are home to Dolphin in the Energia All-Ireland League in a vital Division 2A encounter that kicks off at Dubarry Park on Saturday afternoon when the action gets under way at 2.30 p.m. Buccs will be favoured on their home turf to overcome the Cork side who are second from bottom. But the visitors will be fighting for survival so the Pirates must be on guard and focussed.

The Athlone side really impressed when building up a 24-7 lead down south last November but then allowed the Munster outfit back into the contest. Buccs came out on top 27-24 but, in reality, it could well have been a bonus point win. Whether the midlanders dropped their concentration or felt they had the job done when comfortably ahead, they cannot allow that to repeat on Saturday.

Dolphin have some dangerous operators particularly in their backline that includes Finland captain Jussi Viljanen and Alex Corduff from Mayo in the centre. This sector is very cosmopolitan with New Zealander Cameron Powell and Albert Fronek from the Czech Republic also likely to feature. Daryl Foley keeps the team ticking over at fly-half while the vastly experienced David O’Mahony captains the side from the second row. Hooker Callum MacKintosh and flanker Kevin Allen will pose a threat in the forwards battle.

Buccs were on a decent run when the sides met earlier in the season but three successive defeats have dented play-off aspirations. The lack of sheer bulk and grunt proved costly at Cashel but the Pirates should have pocketed home and away wins over Old Crescent. They need to be more ruthless when opportunities present themselves and would benefit from stronger leadership and guile at times.

Dolphin have just a single victory to date and are just one point ahead off table proppers Nenagh Ormonde. They trail the Athlone club by 12 points so victory for the Shannonsiders would create a really healthy buffer zone at that end of the table. Luke Carty and Colm Reilly can set the tempo and dictate the pattern at the weekend when weather and underfoot conditions could be challenging. They were among a handful of our young Connacht players available in Cork and it would give Head Coach Peter O’Donnell stronger options if Niall Murray, Sean Masterson and Declan Adamson could again be included in his selection permutations. But Christian Maulaulau and Shane Layden are ruled out thrugh injury. As ever, Martin Staunton, Evan Galvin and Darragh Corbett can be counted on to lead by example. If Buccaneers play with discipline and commitment to their potential, both collectively and individually, they can regain their winning ways. But they must not underestimate the visitors in a match that will see referee Shane Kierans make his second visit to Dubarry Park this season.