Great Win for Connemara Junior’s against Buccaneers 2nd’s in Junior Plate
Dubarry Park, Athlone – Sunday 13th March
Connemara 21 – 17 Buccaneers
Connemara travelled to Athlone more in hope than expectation on Sunday, missing players through injury & sickness while a couple were unfortunately away in Cardiff!
Buccaneers seemed to have a strong squad out on the day with upwards of 22 players togged. They had struggled the previous week against Sligo when their Senior side was in action against Dungannon but had no such difficulties this week and seemed to be back to full strength for the visit of the Blacks.
Congratulations to our own John O’Brien now playing great rugby with Buccaneers 1st XV on making the Irish Club side who were victorious over Scotland at the weekend.
The game started quite evenly but Bucc’s were dominating possession without threatening too much. The better form that has been shown by our Junior’s recently was evident with excellent communication and defence helping to keep a powerful looking Buccaneers side in their own half.
The first score came when Kevin Keogh once again showed great control at the base of what was a retreating scrum for much of the game.
He fed Oisin Conneely who showed great pace and a powerful hand-off to race through from the 22 and dot down beside the posts. Shane Sweeney converted.
The remainder of the play in the first half took place largely between the 22’s. Shane was playing the conditions well to keep Bucc’s pinned back, Kevin Keogh was making things difficult for the opposition lineout & Paul Keaney was generally making a nuisance of himself slowing the opposition ball down (Not always legally!), while Kevin Barry’s accurate throwing in blustery conditions was ensuring we had a fair a share of possession.
The backline with Paddy Madden, Eoin Bourke and Alan McCann to the fore, were doing extremely well to contain a lively and dangerous looking Buccaneers three quarter line.
Unfortunately as has become a frustrating trend this year, a score was conceded just before half-time on one of the rare occasions Bucc’s made it into our 22.
Michael O’Toole who had been very composed throughout the first half was very unlucky to get a wicked bounce as he went to gather a speculative kick. The ball rebounded off his head and fortuitously landed in opposition hands. They recycled quickly and moved the ball wide where despite a despairing tackle from McCann, their Fullback got in at the right corner.
The difficult conversion was missed and the Referee blew up for Half-time immediately after.
Despite the late score there seemed to be renewed belief in the chances of an upset, the corresponding League fixture had finished 40 – 17 in favour of Buccaneers.
Upon the restart Connemara immediately took up residence in Bucc’s ‘red zone’ stringing some nice phase play together. Bernard Keaney made good ground off a ruck on the 22, Paddy Madden took a great line off him & powered through 3 tacklers before offloading to the onrushing Stephen Nee, who did brilliantly to reach out and plant the ball on the whitewash for a try. It was again converted by Sweeney leaving the score 14 – 5 in favour of the Blacks.
The inevitable Buccaneers fight back wasn’t long in coming, their considerably larger pack had decided to keep the ball to themselves for a while and proceeded to rumble into the Connemara 22. Despite some gallant defence, they retained the ball well and after multiple phases, the difference in size eventually told with them powering over from close range. The conversion was missed leaving the score 14 – 10 to Connemara.
At this stage Shane Sweeney had to retire injured and with only 2 subs, neither of whom were backs, Bernard moved to Out-half with Eugene Conroy coming into the backrow.
There was a definite swing in momentum and Bucc’s continued to build on their dominance upfront, moving the play quickly back into Connemara territory. After initially defending manfully, one of very few missed tackles on the day from the Black’s allowed Bucc’s powerful No. 8 to cross close to the posts. This time the conversion was good leaving Buccaneers in front 17 – 14.
Given the Season and the luck we’ve had this year, a capitulation might have been expected but it was heartening to hear some of the younger lads encouraging each other on and asking for more effort.
Bernard was settling into his former role as a back, although he may have lost a yard of pace since he last played there & slowly Connemara got back into the game, putting the doubt back into an equally young Buccaneers side.
The ball was moved across the backline with some great handling from Backs & Forwards alike, before Eoin Burke spotted a half-gap, put on the after-burners to split the defence and score next to the posts.
Michael O’Toole who had been unlucky with an earlier penalty which just dropped short, calmly slotted the conversion to put Connemara into a crucial 4 point lead with 12 minutes remaining.
As expected Bucc’s hit Connemara with everything for the remaining minutes but great defence and 2 critical turnovers by Madden and Keaney senior helped to stem the tide.
Chris Casey was to the fore, covering from wing to wing as some of the larger lads, including the evergreen Gerry King who had joined the fray, were now running on fumes! More great work at the breakdown led to a penalty for the Blacks and after checking with the Ref that time was up, Michael O’Toole was more than happy to drive the ball over the stand and end what was a tremendous contest.
The only pity was that there wasn’t more Connemara support to witness a truly heartening display, the 3 tries scored by the Blacks were easily on a par with anything witnessed in Cardiff or Twickenham over the weekend.
Had we lost this match it would have been the end of the Season for the Juniors, Gerry’s men now march onto the next round, with more players to return, here’s hoping we may end the Season on a high yet.
Connemara – Colin Reilly, Kevin Barry, John Davis, Martin Faherty (C), Stephen Nee, Paul Keaney, Bernard Keaney, Kevin Keogh, Oisin Conneely, Shane Sweeney, Alan McCann, Paddy madden, Eoin Burke, Chris Casey, Michael O’Toole Subs – Gerry King, Eugene Conroy
Buccaneers – C. Lavelle, G. Walsh, D. Byrne, S. Stapleton, T. Hynes, L. Mitchell, C. Draper, E. Bracken, D. Lennon, B. Gilligan, G. Duffy, R. Byrne, H. Reilly, S. Bianco, A. Hughes (C) Subs Used – G. Bianco, E. Brady, S. Coyle, E. Keena
( Match Report Courtesy of Mark Foyle)