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Shannon Fully Focused On Blackrock Challenge

Shannon Fully Focused On Blackrock Challenge

All talk of a potential AIB League and Cup double has been banned down Coonagh way. Shannon’s mix of youth and experience has them competing well on both fronts but team captain David Quinlan is not allowing his side to get carried away with their run of good results.

Saturday will see Shannon take on Blackrock College in the AIB Cup final at Dubarry Park, a venue which Shannon skipper David Quinlan is very familiar with given his previous stint with Buccaneers.

Despite Shannon’s glut of AIB League titles, this will be their first time in an AIB Cup decider and Quinlan and company are proceeding with caution.

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“It’s a cup final, you never get a cup easy. Hopefully it will be a good game on the day. We know it’s going to be tough, cup finals always are.

“Neither of us has won this trophy before so we’re both very keen to win,” said the experienced back rower.

Shannon have had to do things the hard way in this season’s AIB Cup, with all four of their matches in the previous rounds being away from home.

They came into the competition in the second round, edging out Belfast Harlequins 19-17 at Deramore Park, and their first game of 2008 saw them run out 34-20 winners over UCC at the Mardyke.

“The first game was very tough above in Belfast. We struggled up there last year, lost in the semi-final up there.

“It was tough game but good to get off to that start. We’ve travelled away in all our games so they have all been very tough,” Quinlan admitted.

“‘College was a tough game because we didn’t really know what to expect. It was only very late on when we pulled away from them.”

Mick Galwey’s side also had to dig deep to see off St. Mary’s College (28-15) at Templeville Road in the last-eight, while they won their re-fixed semi-final 8-5 at Galwegians last Saturday.

“Similar to the UCC game, we were able to get away from Mary’s in the closing stages. They came hard at us and it was only in the last ten minutes that we got a couple of scores.”

Reflecting on last weekend’s trip to Crowley Park, Quinlan added: “It’s a very tough place to go. Any team will tell you that. We did well into the wind but when we turned around with the wind we just didn’t play.

“In fairness to ‘Wegians, they gave it to us in the second half. With a bit more luck they could have got a draw or even a win out of it, but thankfully we held on.

“Cup rugby…it’s not like the league, there’s no bonus point, there’s no four tries. It’s all about winning and losing and we’ve been lucky enough to find our way to the final.”

Quinlan is being modest when he talks about Shannon having good fortune. The Limerick giants are well known for their ability to come good in the final quarter of games and particularly at this, the business end of the season.

How they do it year after year is a secret only known by themselves but Quinlan explained that taking each competition on its own merits has helped their two-pronged assault on All-Ireland glory.

“I think we’ve kinda split our campaigns. When we’ve played cup games, it’s been a break away from the league. We’ve approached it that way.

“The AIB Cup for us was another competition, something different and a different challenge. It’s kinda helped to break up our season a lot as well.”

Shannon have already tasted cup success this season, with December’s Munster Senior Cup final victory over Highfield providing a timely boost to the players, particularly the younger ones.

Quinlan explained: “The Munster Senior Cup is very important to Shannon. It was great to win it this year, especially because a lot of the guys hadn’t won anything before in senior club rugby.

“Some guys got their first medal and it kinda gave us a boost just at the right time of the season.”

Quinlan, a cousin of Munster and Ireland’s Alan Quinlan, has been part of AIB League-winning sides in the past but an AIB Cup winners’ medal would be a welcome addition. So is there a league and cup double in the offing?

“It’s way too early to say that! Blackrock is going to be a very difficult game on Saturday. As regards the league, we still have Greystones to play.

“We’ll hopefully get a home semi and then you have the four best club teams in Ireland then and from there on it’s going to be very even.”

Quinlan knows all too well that you cannot afford to look beyond your next game, and while Shannon were 26-7 winners over Blackrock in the league, past history will count for little as the Dubliners are currently one of the form teams in the country.

“We beat Blackrock at the start of the year. But since Christmas, Blackrock have been in excellent form, they’ve put together a lot of good results recently.

“They’ve beaten Clontarf twice and they deserve a lot of respect.”