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AIB League: Shannon In Seventh Heaven

AIB League: Shannon In Seventh Heaven

Shannon’s anthem “There Is An Isle” rang out around Lansdowne Road on Saturday as the 2004 champions, thanks to a fiery first-half performance, lifted the Division One trophy for a seventh time.

Shannon’s anthem “There Is An Isle” rang out around Lansdowne Road on Saturday as the 2004 champions, thanks to a fiery first-half performance, lifted the Division One trophy for a seventh time.

AIB League Division One Final: Saturday, May 7
Belfast Harlequins 20 Shannon 25, Lansdowne Road
Scorers: Harlequins: Tries: Matt Mustchin, Ian Humphreys, Greg Mitchell; Con: Humphreys; Pen: Humphreys
Shannon: Tries: Brian Tuohy, Colm McMahon, Nigel Conroy; Cons: David Delaney 2; Pens: Delaney 2

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Former Munster and Ireland lock Mick Galwey won his first top flight title as a coach and veteran back Andrew Thompson claimed a record seventh medal as Shannon completed a clean sweep of AIB final wins for this season’s table-topping sides.

A thunderous three-try first half salvo pushed them 25-0 in front at the break – well on their way to a fourth Senior trophy of 2004/05, adding to their provincial haul of the Munster Senior League and Cup double and the Limerick Charity Cup.

By the time the stadium clock ticked past 80 minutes however, ‘Quins were just five points in arrears after centre Greg Mitchell went over from a right-sided ruck, despite calls for a knock-on in the previous phase.

Belfast fly-half Ian Humphreys knocked over the conversion, his first of a game of two halves, but Shannon were not to be out done.

Coach Galwey looked well on course for his maiden win as Shannon went 13-0 up inside the first half-hour. Fly-half David Delaney kicked a brace of penalties on 5 and 29 minutes to sandwich Brian Tuohy’s opening try.

Both sides lost a player on 13 minutes as both Shannon veteran Eddie Halvey – playing his final game – and ‘Quins teenage prop John Andress were yellow carded for an altercation near the Ulster side’s line.

Eight minutes later, Shannon winger Ian Dowling brilliantly shifted through three tackles to set up field position on the right and when Eoin Cahill found Tuohy in space, the inside centre broke past Mitchell to score his eighth try of the campaign in the left corner.

Delaney converted, tagged on a penalty and watched with glee as flanker Colm McMahon crossed on 32 minutes after intercepting ‘Quins scrum-half Andy Matchett’s ruck feed and handing off the tackle attempt of Johnny Lowe.

Galwey’s men had time for a third try before the break – at 18-0 in front – as hooker Nigel Conroy touched down from a close range Halvey offload.

Backed by a stiff breeze in the second half, Humphreys kicked ‘Quins’ first points from a penalty two minutes in. Departing Ulster lock Matt Mustchin muscled over for his third try of the season six minutes later to stir hopes of a revival from DC Gillespie’s side.

Humphreys was wide with the conversion attempt but following Shannon centre Cahill’s 68th-minute sin-binning for preventing a quick ruck release, the ‘Quins fly-half jetted over for an unconverted try in the left corner from a re-set scrum.

25-13 in front, Shannon did look unthreatened until Mitchell burrowed over at the death. Humphreys converted this time, but the kick proved to be a meaningless one.

Shannon: D O’Donovan; I Dowling, B Tuohy, E Cahill, F McLoughlin; D Delaney, F McNamara; L Hogan, N Conroy, T Buckley, E Halvey, T Hayes (Capt), C McMahon, J O’Connor, S Keogh.
Subs used: J Blaney for Conroy, F Roche for Hogan (both 63 mins), T Cregan for O’Donovan (64), A Thompson for Delaney, D Quinlan for O’Connor (both 79).

Harlequins: J Lowe; P McKenzie, G Mitchell, WP Strauss, S Wilson; I Humphreys, A Matchett; J Carey (Capt), N Hanna, J Andress, L McGowan, M Mustchin, S Lamb, D Dougherty, C McCarey.
Subs used: D Fitzpatrick for Lamb (16-23 mins), Rory Best for Hanna (47), Fitzpatrick for Andress (49), D Barbour for Lamb (63), A Gillespie for Dougherty (76), G McLoughlin for Wilson (80).

Sin-bin: Eddie Halvey (Shannon), John Andress (Harlequins) (both 14 mins); Eoin Cahill (Shannon) (68)
HT: Harlequins 0 Shannon 25
Referee: Alan Lewis (Leinster)