BUCCANEERS win thrilling Connacht U-17 Cup final | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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BUCCANEERS win thrilling Connacht U-17 Cup final

published:May  06   2019

Buccaneers and Ballinasloe played out a compelling and thrilling Connacht U-17 Cup final at Dubarry Park, Athlone, on Sunday with Buccs shading a fiercely contested decider by 7-3. Two very well matched sides gave it their all in this derby duel but the young Pirates inexorable commitment, particularly in their tackling, richly merited this victory in a battle that was in the balance right up to the final whistle of the 70 minutes.

On a dull but mild afternoon, conditions were near perfect for this showdown. The decision to play the game on the main pitch in Dubarry Park (here the Athlone club’s mentors acknowledge their opponents agreeing to play there as the Sportsground was unavailable) was rewarded with a large and vocal attendance who added to the occasion at the well appointed venue.

Ballinasloe had an edge in possession and territory in the opening half. Yet it was Buccs who threatened most, notably a tremendous 11th minute break by Deema Feehan from his own half to close to the opposition line where he was halted by Alex Marjanovic’s tackle. Nine minutes later a smart chip and grubber by Ruaidhri Fallon made terrific ground but over enthusiastic support players going off their feet gave Ballinasloe a welcome relieving penalty close to their line.

In between, Adam Flanagan was penalised for an illegal tackle just inside his own 22 and Matthew Devine stroked over the straight-forward penalty to open the scoring. The exciting fly-half Devine then led a smashing counter attack from deep in his own half where Buccs had failed to capitalise on a penalty bringing them within five metres of the tryline. Surprisingly, after a spirited and open first half, only one score accrued giving Ballinasloe a slim 3-0 advantage at the interval.

Devine (son of Buccs favourite Mike) threatened again early in the second half but the Athlonians were now looking a lot sharper when in possession, particularly when Ben Daly was on the move. The fullback made a superb counter from a wayward Devine kick ahead, making huge yardage down the left flank where Buccaneers progress was stopped illegally, earning a yellow card for Joseph Carey. The midlanders promptly added to Ballinasloe’s woes and punted the penalty to touch on the left and Adam Nash claimed lineout possession. Buccs drove forward to within five metres of the opposition’s line before the ball was transferred to Thomas Shine and the centre powered through the Ballinasloe ranks for a wonderfully taken 48th minute try. Fallon added a splendid conversion from the left to give the Pirates a 7-3 ahead.

Five minutes later, Fallon was fractionally off-target with a penalty from near the halfway line and soon afterwards Shine was unlucky not to notch a second try, a marginal forward pass denying him. Ballinasloe threw everything they could at Buccs in a rousing climax, slowly making ground through pick and goes. But Buccaneers were relentless in their tackling and desire, time and again putting their bodies on the line as they stymied the favourites progress. A mazy 64th minute run by standoff Devine was halted by a high Ben O’Carroll tackle but the westerners had to go for a try to win and simply could not breach Buccs defence following this penalty kicked to touch near The Bounty corner.

In a thrilling finish great credit goes to both teams, Ballinasloe hanging on to possession and Buccs maintaining their shape and resilience, with both sides retaining their discipline despite the desperate efforts every single player was putting in for their respective causes. And in the final move of a gripping decider, it was Ballinasloe who blinked first, being penalised in front of the Buccaneers posts for holding on too long to the ball in the face of remorseless defending.

Flyhalf Devine is a gem waiting to be polished and his captain Conor Goode also made an excellent contribution for Ballinasloe. The Co. Galway side’s pack dominated early on and substitute Daithi Blackweir made a good impression when introduced. But the Buccs forwards gradually gained the upperhand through massive workload with prop Kieran Egan and flanker Adam Nash to the fore, ably driven on by the example of their skipper Sam Fogarty. Fallon and Flanagan were the more effective half-back pair on the day and Daly was a constant menace while Shine’s strong running was rewarded with the match-winning score. Thus the more expansive Buccaneers, who eliminated their first half errors, deservedly avenged their 22-3 league loss to Ballinasloe with the silverware bringing joy and optimism to the club at the end of a long playing season. All players in the squad are congratulated on their exhilarating efforts and heartiest compliments go too to their coaching/management team of Kolo Kiripati, Damien Shine, Tom Conlon and Niall Daly.

Connacht Senior Vice-President Ted Carty rightfully complimented both teams on their endeavours in a hugely entertaining final particularly in the second half before presenting the Connacht Cup to victorious captain Sam Fogarty. Despite the close similarity of the colours making life difficult at times, referee Shane McAree’s officiating was composed and nurturing for the young players.

BUCCANEERS:- 15 Ben Daly; 14 Deema Feehan, 13 Eamon Martin, 12 Tom Shine, 11 Eoin Pillion; 10 Ruaidhri Fallon, 9 Adam Flanagan; 1 Adam Kennedy 2 Koronato Kiripati 3 Kieran Egan; 4 Joseph Henson, 5 Sam Fogarty (captain); 6 Gavin Daly, 7 Adam Nash & 8 Mark Mitchell. Replacements:- 16 Evan McCormack, 17 Cian Malone, 18 Eoin McCarthy, 19 Jack Norton, 20 Diarmuid Carey, 21 Ben O’Carroll, 22 Fergal Cunniffe and 23 Olan Healy.

BALLINASLOE:- 15 Adam Fogarty; 14 Alex Marjanovic, 13 Conor Goode (captain), 12 John Devine, 11 Thomas Fitzpatrick; 10 Matthew Devine, 9 Naoise Murphy; 1 Robert Carty, 2 David Treacy, 3 Matthew Kelly; 4 Brian Feeney, 5 Joseph Carey; 6 Naoise O’Malley, 7 Kyle Blackweir & 8 John Claffey. Replacements:- 16 Luke Feehily, 18 Daithi Blackweir, 19 Andrew Doyle, 20 Eric Luwaga, 21 Gerard Colleran, 23 Jack Tumulty.

Referee:- Shane McAree (Connacht).