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Shannon, The Old Dog For The Hard Road

Shannon, The Old Dog For The Hard Road

In the end it was a victory that probably owed as much to Shannon’s resilience, duarability and tradition as they absorbed the pressure, just hung tough and then delivered the killer blow.

In the end it was a victory that probably owed as much to Shannon’s resilience, duarability and tradition as they absorbed the pressure in the second half, just hung tough and then delivered the killer blow.

Four Tommy Cregan penalties, a drop-goal and his conversion of Stephen Keogh’s 76th minute gave Shannon a 22-16 victory over Cork Constitution, the side who finished top of the pile at the end of the League series.

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In the end it was a game that could have gone either way but one that Con will feel they left behind them. They dominated the second half after a fairly insipid opening period and they looked set for victory when replacement Brian O’Meara nudged them in front,16-15 with his third penalty. However, O’Meara missed with his next effort, perhaps the easiest of the lot, and Con were made to rue that miss, plus two in the opening half by Conrad O’Sullivan (replaced by O’Meara).

Shannon as is their wont, rumbled downfield, kept their composure, kept their discipline and Keogh, who featured in Munster’s win over Connacht the night before, drove over the line for the winning try.

It was very much a game of two halves with Shannon the better in the opener, Con on top in the second. The difference was that Cregan made the most of his opportunities despite not being fully on song himself with the placed ball. He missed three first half penalties, one from the half way and another from a difficult angle on the right. Shannon also had the more eye catching performers and none more so than Jerry Flannery who was deserving winner of the Man of the Match award. The Shannon hooker was simply immense, driving forward in the loose and launching himself at opponents at every opportunity. Eddie Halvey wasn’t too bad either although his insistence on debating the Donal Courtney penalty decision when Con led by one point, could have proved costly. Nevertheless, Halvey played a big role in helping his side bring the trophy back to Limerick.

Con began without the talismanic Ultan O’Callaghan and regular place kicker Pat McCarthy. Inside six minutes of the kick-off Shannon were six up thanks to two Cregan penalties.

Con always looked the livelier behind the scrum and when their only try came, it was scored with an ease that suggested more of the same. It came from a scrum in front of the posts in the Shannon 22 with Tomas O’Leary slipping a pass to the onrushing Cronan Healy who raced over unopposed.

Cregan restored the Shannon advantage with a classic drop-goal and after O’Sullivan had missed with a penalty Cregan added his third to give his side a 12-7 lead going into the interval.

In the second half Cregan and O’Meara swopped penalties (15-10) and with Con now enjoying their best period, they went in front with two more O’Meara strikes. However, they never really managed to capitalize on the territorial advantage and never really made enough use of their superior backline. And for that, Shannon made them pay.

Keogh made an impression from the minute he came on the field and it was his determined plunge for the line that sealed the outcome of this game, Cregan of course adding the points.

Cork Constitution: A Horgan; D Dillon, R O’Donovan, JV Igarza, C Healy; C O’Sullivan (B O’Meara 40), T O’Leary; G Murray, D Murray, M Ross, K Coughlan (D Fogarty 61), S O’Connor (C O’Keefe 61), D Pusey, B O’Connor (P Twomey 83), J Murray.

Shannon: J Lacey; T Cregan, B Tuohy, E Cahill, M lawlor (I Dowling 80); A Thompson, F O’Loughlin; F Roche, J Flanery, G McNamara (T Buckley 66), T Hayes (capt), T Hogan, C McMahon, E Halvey, J O’Connor (S Keogh 50)

Referee: A Lewis (IRFU) (replaced by D Courtney at half-time).