BUCCANEERS are home to Old Belvedere in the All-Ireland League at Dubarry Park this Saturday afternoon with the action kicking off at 2.30pm.
Belvo are just one place above Buccs in a very tightly congested Division 1B. This game is likely to be equally tight and just a single point separated the sides at Anglesea Road in early December when a depleted Pirates crew were pipped 11-10. Luke Carty, with the final kick of the match, was desperately unlucky to see his drop goal effort fade tantalisingly the wrong side of an upright.
Buccs should be a stronger force on this occasion despite the continued absences of Rory Moloney, Martin Staunton and Peter Claffey. The Athlone side will be hopeful that Conan O’Donnell and Conor Kenny can replicate their influence shown in last weekend's win over Ballymena. Torin Rensford, Evan Galvin and Simon Meagher are an effective back row unit complemented by the efforts of fiery hooker John Sutton and Ruairi Byrne.
Carty is likely to be paired with Frank Hopkins at half-back while Shane Layden (who has scored in his three most recent AIL games) and Kieran Joyce are developing a potent pairing in the centre. Callum Boland has been rock steady at full-back and Rory O’Connor is always a threat on the wing. Dean McMahon, who scored at Anglesea Road, could be retained on the wing pending Darragh Corbett’s availability. Graham Lynch and Michael Hanley are other viable options in the backline for this “must win battle”.
Backs coach for the visitors, Steve Crosbie is likely to operate at stand-off in an Old Belvedere backline that could include a pair of ex-Buccs in Ben Carty and the evergreen Danny Riordan. Big winger Jack Keating must not be allowed to get any space or momentum.
There is very little between any of the teams in this division but, in what could be a fiercely contested duel, Buccaneers simply must make home advantage pay to forge a win that would move them up another notch on the league table.
International call-up for Jack Carty
There was a great air of excitement around the club with the news that Jack Carty has been named in the Ireland squad ahead of the upcoming Six Nations championship. The unassuming Carty has been in excellent form for Connacht this season, including another try-scoring display in France last weekend. His place-kicking success ratio ranks him as the closest Irish player to Jonathan Sexton in the PRO14 this season.
His selection by Joe Schmidt indicates serious belief by Ireland’s Head Coach in the Athlonian, who was recently unveiled as a ‘Connacht Rugby Ambassador’ to Buccaneers. Everyone at Buccaneers is so proud of his achievements to date, including Ireland U-20 caps, to which he will hopefully add a Senior appearance or more. The club wishes him and Robbie Henshaw all the best in the forthcoming Six Nations campaign.
Meanwhile, another pair of Buccaneers players, Colm Reilly and Niall Murray are both involved in the Ireland U-20 squad.
‘Prosecco By The Pitch’
It’s ladies day for Saturday’s pre-match function prior to the game against Old Belvedere with the interesting title of 'Prosecco by the Pitch'. All of the club's female players, members and supporters are urged to put on the style and come along for this event, which promises to be a lot of fun. Of course it will actually take place in The Bounty where the ladies can enjoy a pre-match meal (with complimentary Prosecco), get a free ticket to the stand for the big match as well as a souvenir programme. Cost is €35 per person.
There will be a raffle and various prizes, including for the best dressed lady, so it sounds like an occasion not to be missed. Contact Lorna Stuart-Trainor (086 8794465), Mele Kiripati (083 8452563) or the club’s Administrator Geraldine (086 1732711) to book.
Rehearsals for Buccaneers “A Night at the OsKaRs” commence on Tuesday, February 12.
Best of luck to Darragh Murray at the Westmeath Independent Sports Awards event which takes place in the Shamrock Lodge Hotel on tonight (Friday) at 7.30pm. As well as being a monthly award winner, Darragh is also in the running for the overall sports star award.