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AIB League – Shannon Back on Top.

AIB League – Shannon Back on Top.

A try from Fiach O’Loughlin in the closing minutes helped Shannon to a 14-6 win over Clontarf in Castle Avenue. Leaders at the start of the day, Cork Constitution, were held to a

A try from Fiach O’Loughlin in the closing minutes helped Shannon to a 14-6 win over Clontarf in Castle Avenue. Leaders at the start of the day, Cork Constitution, were held to an 8-8 draw by Lansdowne while Mark McHugh kicked an injury time penalty to snatch a 21-18 victory over Garryowen in Dooradoyle.Galwegiand made their first trip to Oak Park a winning one when they emerged 35-23 victors. Eric Elwood accounted for 20 points of his side’s total but to their credit the home side scored four tries – two from Padraig Brennan – to earn a valuable bonus point.

Young Munster’s tenure in the top flight now looks extremely precarious following their 19-18 home defeat by Ballymena although they will be heartened somewhat by the result from Ericsson Park where Buccaneers simply hammered DLSP 69-0. In Stevenson Park Dungannon lost 30-42 to UCD.

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At Castle Avenue, the home side, placed fourth at the start of the day took on second placed Shannon in atrocious conditions. Tarf had the benefit of the wind and the driving rain in the opening half and therefore enjoyed territorial advantage but only had two Jimmy Dempsey penalties to show for all their effort. Shannon looked the more composed side in that half with David Quinlan and Colm McMahon the pick of the Shannon pack while Mick Walls and Daragh Higgins were the liveliest of the home side. So when the sides returned for the second half the smart money was riding on the Thomond outfit.

They took the game to their hosts whose defence proved just as effective as Shannon’s was in the first half. Tommy Cregan reduced the deficit with a well struck long range penalty in the 55th minute. Clontarf withstood an intense period of pressure at the start of the final quarter, when Shannon peppered their line but Cregan leveled the game with his second penalty, again from distance, in the 66th minute to set up a tense finish.

Clontarf lifted yet another siege with nine minutes to go but failed to find touch, instead finding Shannon full back John Lacey instead. He delivered a beautiful crossfield kick which bounced unkindly for Higgins and Fiach O’Loughlin was on hand to gather and run in for the decisive score. Cregan added a simple penalty in the 79th minute to deny Clontarf a deserved bonus point.

At Lansdowne Road,
Ronan O’Gara gave Con the lead with an 8th minute penalty before Lansdowne went in front thanks to a try from Alan McGowan. Conor Mahony then skipped in for a try but on the stroke of half time McGowan landed a penalty to level the tie.

And amazingly that’s how it ended. Despite the aid of the wind in the second half Con were unable to press home their advantage. Their discipline let them down at times with Kenny Murphy and Donncha O’Callaghan sin-binned to leave them playing with thirteen at one stage. Ronan O’Gara was wide with two penalties and a drop goal to leave Lansdowne the happier of the two sides at the finish.

In Dooradoyle a thunder and lightning storm made difficult conditions even more miserable for the players but at the height of the storm Garryowen scored a try that left them trailing 10-8 at half time. John McWeeney had given Mary’s the lead with an early try which Mark McHugh converted and McHugh and Billy Treacy traded penalties before the Garryowen pack piled over for that try. At the end of a closely contested second half, John O’Sullivan scored a try for Jeremy Staunton to convert to tie the game 18-18 but Mary’s were awarded a penalty 46 metres from goal deep in injury time and McHugh’s penalty was straight and true to give the visitors four badly needed points