Dubarry Park, the home of Buccaneers RFC, is again the venue for this season’s AIB Cup and AIB Junior Cup finals this Saturday. The Junior Cup final gets the action underway at 1.30pm, while the Senior decider will follow at 3.30pm.
2007/08 AIB JUNIOR CUP FINAL:
NAVAN v TULLAMORE, Dubarry Park, Athlone, 1.30pm
2007/08 AIB CUP FINAL:
BLACKROCK COLLEGE v SHANNON, Dubarry Park, Athlone, 3.30pm (live on RTE Two)
LIST OF PREVIOUS WINNERS:
AIB JUNIOR CUP – 2005/06: Rainey Old Boys (27-5 v Youghal, Lansdowne Road); 2006/07: Seapoint (47-15 v Coleraine, Dubarry Park)
AIB CUP – 2005/06: Cork Constitution (37-12 v St. Mary’s College, Lansdowne Road); 2006/07: Garryowen (20-7 v Belfast Harlequins, Dubarry Park)
Leinster clubs Navan and Tullamore battle for the Junior crown, which was won by Seapoint last year.
Indeed, Tullamore knocked out the holders, winning 20-16 in a tight quarter-final, after comprehensively defeating Monivea in the opening round.
The Offaly side then proved too strong for Clonmel in the semi-final and, in this sparkling form, will be hoping to achieve ultimate honours.
However, they have been inactive since their semi-final win while Navan have had a number of games including progress to the Provincial Towns Cup final.
But if Gearoid O’Grady and Robert O’Connor, two young players well known to Buccaneers fans, hit form, then Tullamore can prevail especially if their pack play to their potential.
Navan will be looking to half-backs Ryan Roberts and Kieran Masterson to profit from possession won by Paul Feeney and player-coach Brad Harris, while David Geraghty is a winger who will take some minding.
Shannon edged out Galwegians last Saturday to reach another national final where they will be favourites to overcome Blackrock College.
The Limerick giants presently lie in second spot in Division One although they are not quite displaying their form of recent seasons.
Yet, when push comes to shove, they seem to produce the goods when it matters and who would bet against them in the Division One semi-finals?
They have quality and experience throughout their panel with captain David Quinlan still very influential in the back row where Niall Ronan is top class. Sean Cronin is another first rate young player in their front row where another ex-Bucc Killian O’Neill operates.
Mossie Lawlor, David O’Donovan and Limerick Gaelic footballer Stephen Kelly are snappy backs who can capitalise on any opportunities.
Blackrock College have improved further this season and are currently in a very creditable sixth position in the top flight following a long overdue win over Clontarf last time out.
They too could call on a couple of Ireland Under-20 players in scrum half David Moore and flanker Paul Ryan although another ex-Bucc Peter Byrne could don the number 9 jersey.
Fionn Carr is a flyer in the back-line as well as an adroit place-kicker while another recent Ireland U-20 international Shane Monahan is an imposing winger.
Des Dillon captains the Blackrock side from the back row and number 10 Kyle Tonetti is another player worth watching.
Shannon’s pedigree and track record ensures they will be favourites but Blackrock have put a decent season together and their desire, in the club’s 125th year, may prove decisive in a game that is being covered live by RTE TV.
A feast of rugby is anticipated on what should be a fine family day out with bouncy castles and face painters being laid on for children. The 2FM Roadcaster will also be adding to the atmosphere. So all roads lead to Athlone this Saturday – make sure you’re there!
For a map of Dubarry Park and the surrounding area, please click here.