Shannon have won through to their first AIB Cup final after outlasting Galwegians in a hard-fought encounter at Crowley Park on Saturday afternoon.
AIB CUP SEMI-FINAL: Saturday, April 5
GALWEGIANS 5 SHANNON 8, Crowley Park
Scorers: Galwegians: Try: John Cleary
Shannon: Try: Niall Ronan; Pen: David O’Donovan
Galwegians, backed by a strong wind, had the better of the first half but failed to score with Liam Bibo missing two penalty opportunities.
The Galway men came into this game buoyed by their Welsh coach Paul Young’s decision to stick with them for another season, after a return home to Newport was previously indicated.
Bibo was agonisingly close to opening the scoring close to half-time as he hit the woodwork.
Shannon, hoping to keep their AIB League and Cup double dreams alive, struck for the lead score in the 17th-minute.
Playing into the elements, they had mostly kept ball in hand. But they sensed a good opportunity when winning a close range penalty.
The ball was smacked to touch, the lineout won and after a well-controlled maul, flanker Niall Ronan, who failed to make the Munster squad for the Gloucester game, broke off the back to power over to the left of the posts.
David O’Donovan missed the conversion in the blustery conditions and ‘Wegians continued to have the upper hand, possession and territory wise.
Their control meant Shannon, who also included Munster’s Mossie Lawlor in their line-upcould not get going and frustration got the better of the visitors’ replacement prop Les Hogan when he was sin-binned before the break.
‘Wegians’ powerfully-built centre Alipate Tuilevuka, a former USA international, followed suit as referee Mark Hermin tried to keep a handle on things.
In the third quarter, the hosts continued to have the lion’s share of possession but Shannon’s defence was typically dogged.
That committed defence was typified by centre Richie Mullane who got across to make a try-saving tackle on ‘Wegians’ back rower Ivan Muldoon when a score looked inevitable.
Both Bibo and O’Donovan missed penalty chances before the latter found the target for the first time with a 65th-minute penalty kick.
Ten minutes later though, Shannon lost young back rower Eoghan Grace to the sin-bin and they had to endure a nervy finish as ‘Wegians winger John Cleary got over for his seventh touchdown in AIB competitions this season.
It arrived in the 79th-minute when a poor clearance kick and missed tackle in midfield put the Limerick men under pressure and ‘Wegians exploited the space with Cleary squeezing over in the corner.
But Bibo missed the conversion and despite seven long minutes of injury-time, Shannon pulled through to book their place in next Saturday’s decider (Dubarry Park, kick-off 3.30pm) against fellow first-time finalists Blackrock College.