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.
Like countless thousands of other young Irish people, David O'Donovan, will this week pack his bags and head to Australia for a new chapter in his life.
The news of his departure was well flagged within the Shannon camp, but it is a departure that will leave a huge void in their squad as they look to consolidate our top flight status.
Few players have shown as much dedication and commitment to Shannon's cause as 'Dunny' has, since his arrival at the club straight from St. Munchin's College in 1998.
His progress to the senior side came the circuitous route of the Under-20ss, thirds and seconds, but once he broke into the senior squad in 2002 he has been an ever-present and vital member.
Full-back is his main position and while he is equally adept on either wing, he has actually played in every position in the Shannon back-line at one stage or another.
For quite a few of the club's All-Ireland League games he lined out in the starting side but was also their replacement scrum half at the same time.
O'Donovan marked his starting debut in the league on a frosty January day at Thomond Park in 2003 with two tries in a rout of UCD, and played a further eight times that year.
Remarkably in the subsequent six seasons, he either started or came on in every one of Shannon's Division 1 games, which is an achievement in itself.
Apart from winning four All-Ireland League medals, O'Donovan's appearances in finals have produced some memorable moments, like the 2005 decider when an RTE camera tried to halt his progress with a sneaky belt that left him on crutches.
Shannon PRO Andrew McNamara remembers being one of the stretcher bearers that bought him under the stand for treatment, and in trying to negotiate the tricky steps in the old stadium, they nearly tipped him off his perch. He recovered though, and made it out just in time to join the podium celebrations.
McNamara added: "Or what about the time he won the 2009 league for us; not necessarily singlehandedly, but it was his score that clinched the title for us on a day the title was decided on the first try rule.
"Dunny has been part of so many great memories for our club both on and off the field and he will be sorely missed (not the moaning though).
"Rugby player, fashion icon, mediocre card player and terrible singer, all are fair and reasonable when describing Dunny, but possibly the best compliment we could give him on the eve of his departure is that he gave his heart and soul to Shannon, and for that we should all be grateful."