17 Jun, 19:25
Ireland pulled clear of hosts Canada with four tries in the closing half hour as they earned a 40-14 victory at the BMO Stadium on Saturday night. Check out some photos from the Toronto tussle.
Shannon, the undoubted kingpings of the league, will be hoping to rule the roost in the top flight again this season as they go in search of their ninth title, and second ever 'four-in-a-row'. They start the new campaign away to Ballymena (Eaton Park, kick-off 2.30pm) this Saturday.
Centre-cum-out-half Andrew Thompson is the most decorated player in the AIB League. The 32-year-old, who made his league debut way back in 1992 against Old Wesley, has eight Division One winners' medals to his name.
The Laois man also stands on the brink of another milestone - his try in last May's Division One final against Clontarf took his league haul to an incredible 999 points. He should break through the 1,000-point barrier either at Eaton Park this weekend, or at home at Thomond Park (against Buccaneers) on Saturday week.
Surrounding Thompson are Shannon players from the past and present. From left to right: back row Alan Quinlan, who was part of the 1995/96, 96/97, 97/98, 2001/02 and 05/06 league successes, hooker Jerry Flannery, who played in the league-winning campaigns of 03/04, 04/05 and 05/06, back row Anthony Foley, who was a key member of the Limerick club's four-in-a-row side between 1994/95 and 1997/98, and the successful 2001/02 team, and up-and-coming hooker Sean Cronin, who was man-of-the-match in last season's Division One final and was capped for Ireland during June's IRB Under-21 World Cup in France.
Shannon may have lost players of the calibre of Eoin Cahill, John O'Connor, David Keane, Brian Tuohy and David Delaney, who was their top scorer last season with 118 points, during the summer transfer period, but coach Mick Galwey has recruited well - 10 players, in all, have joined the champions, including former back row favourite David Quinlan after a spell with Buccaneers.
**All photos by Billy Stickland of Inpho Photography**