BUCCANEERS 15 CONNEMARA 15
(Buccaneers lose on penalties after extra time)
RUGBY with MICHAEL SILKE
BUCCANEERS 15 CONNEMARA 15
(Buccaneers lose on penalties after extra time)
BUCCANEERS crashed out of the Connacht Senior Cup when Connemara won not only the penalty shoot-out but also the right to play Corinthians in the final after the sides had been dead-locked after both normal and extra time at wet and windy Galway Sportsground on Wednesday night. The teams were tied 8-8 after 80 minutes and 15-15 on 100 minutes in front of a Spartan attendance that would have been even more sparse had Corinthians no interested observers present to witness the mixture of drama and farce on offer!
Both sides were short regulars with Buccaneers perhaps hardest hit where their backline had only one recognised Senior regular starting in Alan Gaughan who operated at outhalf, a portent to next season perhaps. However, despite being near enough to full strength in their pack, the Buccs forwards never curbed the Blacks who seemed far more interested all through in rolling up their collective sleeves all the way to the very end in the testing elements. They upset the odds but were richly merited victors on a memorable night for the Clifden club.
They had first use of the elements although playing up towards the graveyard corner but Sean Joyce missed two penalty kicks in the opening quarter. Buccs first real opportunity did not materialise until 28 minutes when Marcus Madden broke through but he was whistled back before advantage was allowed with a scrum being awarded to his side. Almost immediately Gaughan had a drop goal chance that fell short before he then had a weak penalty attempt on 31 minutes as the midlanders seemed to be coming to terms with the westerners' challenge. But Connemara finished the half strongly, Alan Keogh scything through the middle but Billy Henshaw intercepted his lay-off while Darragh Sweeney lost possession when tackled following a lineout close to the Athlone side's goal line and so a near forgettable first half ended scoreless.
Buccs were initially more business-like on the restart as they went through the phases to bring possession into the Connemara 22 and, when the ball was spread wide, Conor Lavelle did well to hold on to it for a 43rd minute try on the right. Buccs were now putting on a lot of pressure but the ball squirted forward from Kevin Moran's grasp when the prop strove for the Blacks line on 52 minutes. But they edged further ahead when Gaughan landed a 69th minute penalty after Connemara strayed offside to lead 8-0.
That should have been that but, as happened Buccs too frequently for their own good this season, they again failed to close the game out. Typical too of Connemara, they continued to battle and got a boost when Joyce landed a close-in penalty on 74 minutes. They finished strongly with Buccaneers perhaps feeling that they had enough done and, following a series of scrums throughout added time, right winger Richard Bourke somehow found space to get in for an 85th minute try wide on the right to level the scores. Young Joyce was unable to land the difficult conversion with the last action of normal time.
Connemara had first use of the elements for extra time and narrowly missed a drop goal attempt before left winger Peter O'Toole finished off for a well-worked try after just three minutes and Joyce's conversion gave the Blacks the lead for the first time. Connemara's 15-8 advantage was gone inside a minute of the second period of extra time with Michael Diffley getting a good blockdown and then driving forward following a close-in tapped penalty before Kolo Kiripati powered in for a try which Gaughan converted to make it 15-15. This left Buccs in a good position to drive on and they seemed to have secured passage to the final when Gaughan fastened on to turned-over possession with just three minutes remaining to scamper to the line. The outhalf clearly knocked on when grounding the ball but referee Tom Horkan signalled a try before, following the intervention of touch-judge Seamus Phillips, he reversed the award. This caused some heated debate, even though there was an undoubted knock-on, as there were strong views that the match official cannot "undo" a score! However, 15-all it remained and, in all fairness, justice was done when Connemara came out tops in the penalty shoot-out for they were the more committed and consistent outfit on a black night for below par Buccaneers.
BUCCANEERS:- C.Lavelle; B.Henshaw, S.Brady, K.Turley, D.Fagan; A.Gaughan, M.Dolan; M.Diffley, M.Madden, K.Moran; P.Burke, J.Tormey; K.Kiripati, C.Watters and A.Hanley (captain). Replacements used:- K.O'Gorman (for Tormey, inj. h-t), P.Harte (for Turley, h-t), G.Halligan (for Madden, 47 mins), B.Gilligan (for Diffley, 62 mins) and Diffley (for Moran, inj. 79 mins).
CONNEMARA:- A.Keogh; R.Bourke, P.Madden, M.Foyle, P.O'Toole; S.Joyce, G.Conroy; K.Barry, O.Delappe, E.Ferron; A.Kelly, K.Keogh; S.Charlton, D.Sweeney and B.Keaney. Replacements used:- D.Mullan (for Charlton, 62 mins) and J.East (for Barry, 70 mins).
REFEREE:- Tom Horkan (Connacht).
BUCCS FACE GALWEGIANS IN U-20 FINAL TONIGHT
BUCCANEERS final fixture of the season takes place this Tuesday night when our U-20 squad take on Galwegians in the final of the Connacht U-20 Cup at Galway Sportsground, kick off 8 p.m.
This Buccs outfit have enjoyed a tremendous season to date, securing a commendable third spot in the South-West Conference of the National League and qualifying for the last eight nationwide. They would dearly love to have some silverware to show for their wonderful endeavours and, to do so, will need to overcome a tough hurdle in Wegians. Keelan Headd, Terry Hynes and Alan Hughes miss out through injury while Conor Murtagh and Henry Reilly are not available.
But Ireland U-20 duo Conor Higgins and John O'Brien are starters. Adam Kennedy, Billy Henshaw and David Fagan are key operators in the backline where Mark Dolan may feature. Colin Draper too could be fit to return and GAA starlet John Connellan can make an impact while Conor Molloy has shown huge improvement this season. Skipper Niall Harney leads from the cauldron that is the front row where Trevor Thompson and David Egan can be the anchors of a successful raid to the City of the Tribes. Rory Byrne, Shane O'Neill, Paul Robinson and ‘the perpetual motion man' Kevin Creaven will test Galwegians mettle in the forwards battle where Joe Kenny may not be risked due to a niggling injury.
Ireland U-20 back-rower Joe Moran is Galwegians most influential player in a physically strong squad that will ask questions of the midlanders. But Buccaneers have been focussed and disciplined all through, their workrate is second to none, and their willingness to support one another has reaped good dividends this season. If this well-balanced side plays close to full potential, then they can finish the season in style.
BUCCANEERS U-16 players were presented with their Connacht Cup medals at a pleasant function in The Bounty last week. Conor FitzGibbon was named "U-16 Player of the year" with Ryan Reid being honoured as "U-16 Clubman of the year". Captain Jack Carty thanked all their coaches, mentors and supporters; and sponsors Seamus Donoghue and Ted Carty were especially thanked for their generosity.
GOOD LUCK to St. Peter's F.C. in Sunday's FAI Junior Cup final v Ballymun at Tolka Park. Best wishes too to Pat Whelan for a speedy recovery following his recent operation.
THANK YOU to Senan Downes and his team of volunteers who helped the club host the Womens All-Ireland League Division 1 and 2 finals in Dubarry Park at short notice last weekend. Special mention goes to Ballinasloe Civil Defence and also to our young female players who were ‘ball girls' on the day, when they got a close-up view of the quality of Womens rugby, especially in the Senior final, that they must aspire to.