...Shannon's Andrew Thompson who became only the sixth player in AIB League history to break through the 1,000-point barrier...
Shannon stuttered to a 22-11 opening day win over Ballymena as a late try from returning back row David Quinlan proved the difference at Eaton Park.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Saturday, October 14
BALLYMENA 11 SHANNON 22, Eaton Park
Scorers: Ballymena: Try: Craig Woods; Pen: Dirkie Strydom; Drop: David Drake
Shannon: Tries: Mark Tuohy, David O'Donovan, David Quinlan; Cons: Andrew Thompson 2; Pen: Thompson
Former captain Quinlan picked up a loose ball off a ruck and ran in from halfway to crown the champions' 200th AIB League game.
Shannon led by 17-6 at the break after tries from full-back David O'Donovan and winger Mark Tuohy. Zimbabwean full-back Dirkie Strydom, who is now a naturalised citizen, kicked a penalty and scrum half David Drake dropped a goal for the Braidmen.
The hosts controlled much of the second half but could only add a try on 71 minutes from replacement winger Craig Woods.
Strydom sent over an eighth-minute penalty to nose Ballymena in front as they sought to avoid a hat-trick of losses against the men from Thomond Park.
Their lead lasted all of two minutes as from a lineout on halfway, captain Colm McMahon and young hooker Sean Cronin made good ground for Shannon before numbers out wide saw Tuohy glide in.
Laois man Andrew Thompson converted to make history and take his league points tally to 1,001. He hit the 999 mark thanks to his try in last May's Division One final.
Out-half Thompson, the eight-time league winner, was influential throughout, linking well with his half-back partner Frankie McNamara, and he was hit with a high tackle in the 19th-minute which saw Ballymena prop Simon Shawe sin-binned.
Thompson kicked the resultant penalty and four minutes later O'Donovan was over for Shannon's second try after a neat break from new centre Andrew Finn, who has transferred across from arch rivals Garryowen.
Drake's drop shot, on 29 minutes, left his side 17-6 in arrears, but with former Ireland international James Topping switching from wing to centre in impressive fashion, Ballymena dominated the early part of the second half.
In South African coach Jacques Benade's first league game in charge, the home side had a lot of go-forward ball but Shannon's defence was unrelenting. Both Strydom and Ireland 'A' prop Tom Court were stopped short of the line.
They did lose Munster-capped lock Donnacha Ryan to a 69th-minute sin-binning and Woods crossed their whitewash two minutes later.
Yet Mick Galwey's men bounced right back when Quinlan romped in after some nifty handling. Interestingly, former Limerick senior footballer Stephen Kelly started on the wing for Shannon on Saturday and he looks a decent prospect.
Ballymena: C Smith; P Budina, D Strydom, J McGrugan, J Topping; P Campbell, D Drake; A Kirkpatrick, M Hershaw, S Shawe, I Caldwell, B Young, A Graham, G Moore, C Henry.
Subs used: T Court for Shawe, S Douglas for Hershaw, C Woods for Campbell, J Steenkamp for Kirkpatrick.
Shannon: D O'Donovan; M Tuohy, A Finn, J Clogan, S Kelly; A Thompson, F McNamara; T Buckley, S Cronin, F Roche, D Ryan, F Walsh, A Meany, C McMahon, D Quinlan.
Subs used: L Hogan for Buckley, P O'Brien for Meany.
Referee: Donal Courtney (Leinster)