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Byrne Replaces O’Sullivan As Buccaneers Head Coach

Byrne Replaces O’Sullivan As Buccaneers Head Coach

Benny Gilligan, David Henshaw and Paul Byrne will form the Buccaneers senior coaching team for the 2023/24 season

Buccaneers, who finished fifth in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B this year, have installed a new senior coaching team ahead of the 2023/24 season.

Following Eddie O’Sullivan’s departure, the Athlone club has appointed Paul Byrne as head coach. He will be assisted by Benny Gilligan and David Henshaw, with Craig Milling returning as senior manager.

All three coaches were involved with O’Sullivan, who had ‘to take a break from coaching due to starting a new business’, and the trio have been heavily involved with the Pirates for a number of seasons.

Byrne and Gilligan helmed the Seconds, whom they revitalised to great effect, and have also enjoyed coaching success with various underage teams over the years following lengthy playing careers with Buccaneers.

Henshaw was a formidable front row force not only for Athlone and Buccaneers but also for Connacht. He won an All-Ireland League title with Garryowen and the Henshaw name has massive links at the club.

He brings a wealth of high level experience and nous to his role. Damien Shine takes up the reins at director of rugby at Dubarry Park, while kit manager Martin Webster is a key back-up member as are physios Joe Smyth and Thomas ‘Jack’ Mannion.

The workload involved with an All-Ireland League squad is massive and, consequently, Byrne and Gilligan have had to relinquish their direct coaching roles with the club’s Junior team but they will be keenly involved with the new crew there too.

Martin Staunton, recently retired after more than 200 AIL appearances in over a decade of sterling service for Buccs, takes up the mantle of head coach to the J1s, where he will be assisted by Eoghan Slevin. Niall Harney is elevated to manager.

Conor Moran continues as manager of the J2s while coaches are being actively sought to take charge of Buccs Under-20 squad.

It is a brave but pragmatic move by the club to select ‘in-house’ as Buccaneers bid to build on their performances in Division 1B this past season. Training commences on Tuesday, July 11.