Shannon officials spent hours on Saturday morning, spiking and getting their pitch at Coonagh playable for this AIB League Division One tie but for a long time they must have wondered if their efforts would be worthwhile.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Saturday, January 31
SHANNON 22 DUNGANNON 10, Coonagh
Scorers: Shannon: Tries: Richie Mullane, Marcus O’Driscoll, Kevin Griffin; Cons: Tadhg Bennett 2; Pen: Tadhg Bennett
Dungannon: Try: Michael Rainey; Con John McGuckin; Pen: John McGuckin
Looking to bounce back from last week’s heavy home defeat to Cork Constitution, Dungannon led Shannon 3-0 at half-time thanks to a penalty by full-back John McGuckin.
And to make matters worse for the home side, prop Kevin Griffin was sin-binned for persistent infringing after 31 minutes.
Tadhg Bennett, Division One’s current top scorer, levelled with a Shannon penalty after 46 minutes, but Dungannon struck for the first try when Michael Rainey crossed the line after managing to block a clearance kick from Shannon captain Fiach O’Loughlin.
McGuckin converted for a sudden 10-3 lead, yet Shannon, who had two contracted players on show in hooker Mike Essex and flanker Niall Ronan, knuckled down and forced their way over for three tries in the closing quarter.
Winger Richie Mullane made his way over in the 65th minute after a fine break from John Clogan and final pass from man-of-the-match David O’Donovan.
Munster’s Ronan was involved then, four minutes later, as Geoff Moylan’s men set up a try for Marcus O’Driscoll.
Bennett took the ball on and surged up the left-hand side before offloading to O’Driscoll who did well to continue the move and eventually go in under the posts for a seven-pointer.
‘Gannon, who had Ulster’s Declan Fitzpatrick in their front row, simply had no answer but they fought right until the final whistle and Shannon’s third and final try did add a flattering look to the score-line.
The visitors deserved more for their efforts but five minutes from the end, Griffin atoned for his yellow card when he drove over after Dungannon had lost possession in their 22.
Shannon full-back O’Donovan had a very effective game and he was deservedly named man-of-the-match as the Limerick giants moved back into the top four.
Both he and Bennett led the way for the Shannon backs while Jeremy Turkington shone in the Dungannon pack before retiring near the end. Richard McCarter also did well at out-half for the visitors.