10 Dec, 12:23
Ireland's John Lacey will referee his first ever RBS 6 Nations match in February, while Alain Rolland is also included in the Elite Panel in what is his last season.
Little over five months since claiming their seventh AIB League Division One title, Shannon are top of the table again thanks to an opening day romp at St Mary's.
AIB LEAGUE DIVISION ONE: Saturday, October 15
St Mary's College 13 Shannon 42, Templeville Road
Scorers: St Mary's: Tries: James Norton, Mark Donnellan; Pen: John Sexton
Shannon: Tries: Brian Tuohy 2, John O'Connor, Frankie McNamara, Ian Dowling; Cons: Andrew Thompson 4; Pens: Thompson 3
With their bonus point secured on Saturday in little over 50 minutes, Mick Galwey's side are ominously in pole position after the first weekend of AIB League action this season.
Brilliant autumnal sunshine greeted both teams onto the pitch and Shannon wasted little time in reacclimatising themselves with the surroundings. Three seasons ago, ironically on the opening day, Mary's surprised the then champions Shannon 26-21, but there was to be no escape route for last season's Division Two finalists this time.
Six minutes in and Shannon supporters were already celebrating their first try - scrum half Franke McNamara lunged over from close range after good work from the visitors' lineout. Shannon second row Donnacha Ryan, a summer signing from UCC, excelled at the set piece all afternoon and gobbled up a number of restart kicks.
League veteran Andrew Thompson converted for 7-0, and after a Mary's penalty miss, the Shannon number 10 drilled over penalties on 21, 28 and 33 minutes for a 16-3 lead. John Sexton had replied with the boot for the Dubliners, bu Mary's then lost prop Cillian O'Byrne to a yellow card for killing the ball which resulted in Thompson's third strike.
A scrum move right off the training pitch saw Shannon net their second try just before the break. Good hands from McNamara, Jerry Flannery and Frankie Roche saw flanker John O'Connor slalom through and around behind the posts to score. Thompson converted for a 23-3 half-time advantage.
A McNamara break and cut out pass from centre Brian Tuohy on 47 minutes saw Munster winger Ian Dowling outmuscle both Rob Smyth and Philip Brophy for the corner and Shannon's third try. Their bonus point effort followed seven minutes later - a loose pass from James Norton was gathered in by Tuohy and he thundered over on a 30-metre run to the line to touch down. Thompson added the extras for 35-5 and the Limerick giants were coasting.
Predictably, Mary's, whose new skipper John McWeeney was forced off early in the second half, came back into it. Unconverted ries from Norton and substitute lock Mark Donnellan, right at the death, sandwiched Tuohy's second try on 77 minutes.
MARY'S: D Hughes; J Norton, J McWeeney (Capt) (D Fanning 48), P Brophy, R Smyth; J Sexton, J Kilbride; C O'Byrne, P Smyth (O McCormack 72), B Moran (M Duggan 55), E Keane (M Donnellan 55), G Logan, P Nash (M Duggan 38-ht, J Ellis 66), A Copeland, J Ellis (K O'Brien 63).
SHANNON: M Lawlor; I Dowling, B Tuohy, E Cahill (D O'Donovan 59), F McLoughlin; A Thompson, F McNamara (C O'Loughlin 72); F Roche, J Flannery (G McNamara 63), T Buckley, D Ryan, P O'Brien, C McMahon (Capt), (L Hogan 12), J O'Connor (D Keane 52), S Keogh.
Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU); Sin-bin: C O'Byrne (Mary's) (32 mins)