The true spirit of rugby was in full display at the All Ireland Mixed Ability Rugby tournament hosted by Buccaneers Rugby Football Club at Dubarry Park on Saturday. Teams from as far as Bantry in the deep south-west and Belfast up north travelled to the well-appointed Athlone venue for a day of team rugby, showcasing that players of all abilities (and ages!) can enjoy and partake in the sport.

Following a briefing for the teams and the multitude of volunteers, the action got under way right on schedule with West Cork Jesters, who had been on the road from Bantry very early in the morning, facing Dublin representatives De La Salle Palmerstown Vikings. After the beautiful weather of recent weeks, light rain arrived to coincide with the kick-off but it did not dampen the enthusiasm of the participants or their supporters. Thankfully, the moisture did not last very long.

The ‘real capital’ was well represented on the day with Sunday’s Well Rebels and Ballincollig Trailblazers fielding both mens and womens teams. Another interesting match during the afternoon was the duel of Ulster duo Banbridge Barbarians versus Malone Tornadoes.

After a most entertaining and sometimes competitive day’s rugby, 2015 World Champions Sunday’s Well Rebels qualified to square off against host club Buccaneers Pirates in the ‘showcase’ match that concluded the on-field activity. Here the homesters (who fielded club president Brendan Wilkins in this crunch tie!) proved the surprise packets of the day with tries by Cathal Roddy, Keith Grehan and Patrick McManus (plus a conversion by Paul Kenny) ensuring that the top honours went to Buccs who outscored their southern opponents by 3 tries to 2.

However, each and every team were winners on the day with all players getting medals at the presentation ceremony in the mega tent at The Bounty. This was followed by music and social interaction for some hours where the smiles and craic matched that of the on-field banter.

Buccaneers RFC is indebted to the numerous contributors to making this event both successful and enjoyable. A massive debt of gratitude goes to Niall Quinn, who was the driving force behind what was a pet project for him. Delight and congratulations that it proved so successful. The support of the IRFU, primarily via David McKay and Ross O’Donoghue, and Connacht Rugby (kudos here to Luke Murphy, Zoe Langsdale and Cathal Roddy) is greatly appreciated as was the input of Alan Craughwell of Mixed Ability Sports Ireland. Thanks too to Tom O’Neill who live-streamed the matches and to Tom and Paschal and the crew at The Bounty for their support. Appreciation is also extended to the referees, physios, ambulance crew and the numerous volunteers led by Barry Reid whose efforts ensured that the event was rewarding in so many ways and surely the forerunner of more in the future.