Shannon year has been good and it’s not over tyet
Remember 29th of September 2001? A scorcher of a day in the Rose bowl of UCD’s campus? Leading by 12 points with 6 minutes to go, looking comfortable. Then disaster, two tries conceded, a loss and the season ahead looked bleak. What transpired in the following 16 games were nothing short of inspirational. If anyone told me back then the course the season would take for Shannon, I would of said they were physics or liars, the latter being the sensible option. What a day, what a performance, what a team. We are the Champions (again). It’s still sinking in. Our fifth title, and first since 1998 may possibly be the sweetest yet. Rated rank outsiders by nearly all pundits, we defied those very odds and took the game to Cons from the very first whistle. What followed was a display of skill, passion, courage, but above all pride. The match details have been well documented, so there’s no need for regurgitation. But what most correspondents failed to mention was the huge support that the team got from the stands. In an era of lapsed attendances, it was magic to hear the chant of Shannon, Shannon reverberate around the ground in the final 10 minutes, when the lads needed it most. In that respect the team and management have asked me to convey their heartfelt thanks to one and all. The 2 extra minutes felt more like 20, but when the referee finally blew, it was joy unconfined. After the presentation, Frankie Flynn’s rendition of The Isle sounded better than 4 years ago and the flow of salty tears tasted as sweet as candy. The presentation of 21 medals on Saturday represents a shortfall because 15 others played their part in our victory – excluding the management. Geoff and Paul’s contribution has been second to none, but without the back up of, Thady Coughlan, Niall Cowhey, Duckey Brennan, Noel Healy, Jim Galvin, Mary Powell and Dr. Darragh Little, their jobs would have been much more difficult. Before I move on, a quote from Gerry Thornley in the Times encapsulated the whole ethos of Shannon rugby club over the years the thought recurred that whatever it is that passes from generation to generation inside that crest, if they ever bottled it and sold it, we’d all benefit from a few sips.” Enough said.
As the senior celebrations continued unabated, Thomond Park witnessed yet another great day for the club, when for the first time, Shannon won the Webb Cup, in front of a sizeable crowd on a gloriously sunny day. There were a few fresh All Ireland medal-winners in the stand supporting their colleagues, but there were also a few All Ireland medal holders from the 90s on the pitch. Gavin Russell (capt), Billy O’Shea, Ian Sherwin and Johnny Deegan, all looking almost as fit as they did during the four-in-a-row. Having won the McInerney Cup on Tuesday, this win makes it two cups inside a week for Manager of the Year Ken Kiely’s charges, and just as in the previous win, they were full value for the victory. Billy O’Shea kicked us into a 9 point lead before substitute Danny Bedford scored the game’s only try to leave the final score 14-0 and history was made. This has been the 3rds best ever season, reaching their three competition finals, and as the 80’s Meatloaf song goes, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad . Credit where credit is due, Ken Kiely, Harold Brown and Pat Brown take a bow. Between the three of them they managed to assemble a self-sufficient group of players whose distinct and unique training skills (!!) set them apart from those gone by. Well done to all concerned.
The finals aren’t finished just yet. In a repeat of the senior AIL final, the 2nds of Cork Con and ourselves compete in the Millennium AIL Final. This is sure to be as exciting and dramatic as last Saturday’s game, but form would probably give Con the edge. However, after a slow start to the season our 2nds are now on a roll following hugely impressive wins over Ballinahinch and Old Belvedere. Many of these players are aware that they are knocking on the door of the senior team, and with that comes the responsibility of performance and I for one know they won’t disappoint. The game’s in Coonagh this Saturday at 5pm. It’s important that these players are afforded the same support as their senior counterparts, so please make the effort.
On Sunday the senior side play near neighbours Thomond in the Munster Senior Cup in Thomond Park at 3pm. With the AIL under our belts all concentration is focused on making it a double celebration come the end of the season. This beautiful trophy is still very much a goal in Shannon, and with the team going for three in a row the stakes are as high as they were last week.
A try from Peter Murray gave the U/11’s a great cup win against U/L Bohs last weekend which gave them the opportunity to meet their old adversaries, Garryowen in the semi final in Dooradoyle.
The U/18’s finished off their season with a disappointing loss to Thomond in the cup. It has been a very tough year for the 18’s, badly affected by schools they battled bravely in every game and never once let the black and blue jersey down. Declan O’Connor and John Sherain have helped this side enormously over the course of the year with their commitment and dedication.
This weekend the U/16’s play Thomond or Richmond in the up and the U/15’s play either Richmond or Nenagh, also in the cup. Both those games are on in Coonagh with 12pm starts.
Those people in possession of Club draw cards are reminded to return them as soon as possible, and for anyone looking for the chance to win a car, tickets are available from any member of the committee.
Finally in a week that has seen many team honours for Shannon, the inclusion of Peter Stringer in the IRFU’s greatest team ever, is an individual honour that we also celebrate. A mere nipper among the greats of our game, his career is only beginning.