STAUNTON and CLEARY take top awards at Buccs Gala | News | Buccaneers Rugby Football Club Athlone

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STAUNTON and CLEARY take top awards at Buccs Gala

published:May  21   2018

MARTIN STAUNTON and MICHAEL CLEARY captured the chief accolades at Buccaneers end of season Gala Awards dinner held at the Radisson Blu hotel, Athlone. Stalwart Staunton was named Senior Player of the Year for the second time while the even longer serving Cleary earned the Club Person of the Year accolade.


Welcoming the guests, who included representatives from the club’s title sponsors AUDI ATHLONE, Buccaneers President Tom Meagher said that despite a difficult season for our Senior side Buccs had nevertheless enjoyed much success. The club’s underage section continues to claim silverware while, as could be seen from the trophies lined up for presentation, Buccaneers had no less than ten players wear the green of Ireland during the season. These included Robbie Henshaw who also wore the red of the British & Irish Lions, the first clubman and Athlonian to do so which brought immense pride to the Pirates.


MARTIN STAUNTON has been a splendidly committed and consistent player for Buccaneers for quite some time now. A virtually ever present in our First XV, he epitomises the true clubman who shows topclass example in regularly being first to training and always giving his absolute best on the playing fields.


The Laurencetown native learned his rugby at Ballinasloe before switching to Shannon for three seasons, the first two with their U-20 Academy. He also switched position from No.8 to prop when he was elevated to their senior squad and the following year he transferred to Buccaneers where he has proved a much valued addition to the Pirates’ front-row. He also played with Connacht U-20s and has now enjoyed nine seasons with the midlands club culminating in winning promotion to the Ulster Bank League 1A division last season. While a software design student at Athlone Institute of Technology, he was their ‘Player of the Year’ in 2011 and captained them to an All-Ireland Colleges Senior Cup triumph from the No.8 berth. Staunton has won Connacht Senior League titles for the past three seasons as well as a number of Senior Cup successes also. The whole-hearted and effervescent forward is a very popular member of the Buccaneers squad who was also honoured as our Senior Player of the Year in 2014 and was recently named Connacht Senior Club Player of 2018.


Fiery and passionate captain BRIAN COLLINS was named Buccaneers U-20’s Player of the Year. From Roscommon, the student is a lock with big potential who will surely soon be bidding for a starting berth in the Senior squad.


ROSSA DOOLEY, a relatively recent arrival from Lansdowne, is a very promising flanker whose endeavours including some playing time with the Firsts ensured he warranted the Seconds Player of the Year accolade.


The Womens team has fielded many new faces in the past season or two but it was one their founding players TRACEY FINNERTY who merited the Womens Player of the Year honour. Tracey was a key performer at prop when Buccs won the Connacht Invitational Cup in their inaugural campaign. A splendid team member she has displayed versatility this term, along with her customary fierce desire to give of her best, and her contributions earned her a merited nomination as Connacht Womens Club player of the year.


The ‘Most Improved’ player awards went to Paul Boyle (Firsts), Trevor Phillips (Seconds), Robert Enraght-Moony (U-20’s) and Katy Ryan (Womens); all were truly worthy winners.


The input and endeavours of the club’s volunteers were again recognised this year. Here, as in all sections, there were worthy nominees aplenty before the winners were decided upon. DAVID CONNOLLY, who has worn many caps in the club including skippering Buccs to an All-Ireland League division title win and was also a noted AIL referee, was an eminently deserving winner of the ‘Youths Volunteer of the Year’ award. He has enjoyed coaching success here including a recent Connacht U-17 Plate triumph. The ladies continue to make a major contribution at underage rugby and here the dedicated endeavours of GIOVANNA HUDSON-MAGLIOCCA earned her a richly merited ‘Minis Volunteer of the Year’ honour.




The career of ROBBIE HENSHAW goes from strength to strength and, not yet 25, he already has 33 caps for Ireland for whom he has scored 4 tries. He was a rising star on the Connacht team that won the province’s first ever title when the westerners won the PRO12 league. Henshaw transferred to Leinster after that and has recently played a major role in their Champions Cup triumph. Meanwhile the Coosan native was a key contributor as Ireland won a stunning Six Nations championship in ‘Grand Slam’ style. Topping all that he was the first ever Buccaneers player to be selected on a British & Irish Lions squad during last summer’s successful series against New Zealand. Robbie’s magnificent achievements saw him presented with a specially commissioned Athlone Crystal vase by club president Tom Meagher and Michael Moore of Audi Athlone.


Nine other Buccaneers players who brought further great pride to the club by being selected on various Ireland teams during the season were also presented with pieces of Athlone Crystal at the Gala event.

TIERNAN O’HALLORAN           Ireland Senior

DAVID HEFFERNAN                 Ireland Senior

SHANE LAYDEN                       Ireland Sevens

JORDAN CONROY                   Ireland Sevens

COLM REILLY                          Ireland U-19’s

RYAN LOMAS                          Ireland U-19’s

DARRAGH MURRAY                Ireland U-18’s Schools & Clubs

SAUL O’CARROLL                    Ireland U-18’s Schools & Clubs

LIAM WINNETT                        Ireland U-18’s Schools & Clubs




Tipperary may not have enjoyed hurling success on Sunday but Clonmel native MICHAEL CLEARY took what many believe to be the ‘premier’ award when the long-serving and thorough official was unveiled as the eminently worthy recipient of this year’s “Buccaneers Clubperson of the Year”.


Army Officer Mick arrived in Athlone in 1965 where he was based in Custume Barracks. His initial involvement with Athlone Rugby Football Club was in “41’s” (Farrell’s Pub on Church Street) which was then the unofficial HQ of the club. Following the building of a clubhouse at Keane Park, the club later added 2 squash courts which opened in 1975. Cleary was secretary of this fledgling club and became their representative on the rugby club’s Executive Committee. He was Junior Vice-President in 1979 and, following a sojourn overseas, he resumed as squash representative to the Executive for a number of years.


He was a member of the pitch sub-committee that heralded the club’s first steps in moving grounds and was joint president with Gerry Kelly from Ballinasloe in 1998/9 of the now Buccaneers RFC who were then playing for the first time in Division One of the AIB All-Ireland League. The following year Mick designed and implemented the floodlighting at Dubarry Park and was a vital member of the committee overseeing the new clubhouse development in the period 2002/3 when the club erected and moved to our current impressive facility. The effervescent and able Cleary, whose wife Patricia is also an active volunteer in the club, was Director of Facilities from 2007 to 2015 while he has proven to be a highly efficient Secretary since taking on that challenging role in 2017.


Following the announcement of Michael Cleary as ‘Buccaneers Clubperson of the Year’ he was presented with the coveted Michael Hanley Memorial Perpetual Cup by club president Tom Meagher and Michael Moore from Audi Athlone, and drew a standing ovation from all present.


In acceptance Michael stated he was humbled and massively honoured by this acknowledgement, especially as his playing pedigree was limited although he did represent the United Nations something that the legendary Willie John McBride never achieved! Following a humorous speech, he reminded those present that volunteers are the heartbeat of a club and the club always welcomed any help it could get from members and their families.