Shannon stepped up the defence of their AIB League crown by beating Blackrock College 21-15 at Stradbrook on Saturday. Afterwards, Shannon coach Colm Tucker Jnr commended the impact of the Munster players in his side as the Limerick giants chalked up their second successive league win.
It must have been a worrying sight for Colm Tucker Jnr to see his captain Mossie Lawlor taken off after seven minutes with what looked to be a serious leg injury.
However, it almost seemed to add an extra incentive for the Limerick men to take a firm grip of the game and with such a strong team on the pitch, there was plenty of quality to push for the much-needed win.
A show of dominance in the first half which included two tries from winger Stephen Kelly allowed Shannon to go into the second half feeling comfortable.
Two clever drop goals from out-half Tadhg Bennett and superb full-back Felix Jones dashed any hope of a recovery for Blackrock.
Going on recent form, this should have been a comfortable win for ‘Rock. However, with the likes of Munster regulars Jones, Ian Dowling and Niall Ronan, the title holders showed what they are capable of.
Tucker Jnr made no bones about the influence of the contracted players on Saturday’s clash, saying: “We had a very strong side out there today and I think the importance of having quality guys in the squad really showed today.
“We lost Mossie early but fortunately Fionn (McLoughlin) came in and did a great job. But it’s great to have the likes of Felix Jones out there who played very well throughout the game.”
It was certainly happy scenes in the Shannon camp after the final whistle. For them to come to Dublin and beat an in-form ‘Rock side in their own backyard will give them a huge boost in their quest to defend the league crown.
“I think we did make a statement today – physically we were good and our concentration levels were good. So that definitely showed on the pitch,” added Tucker Jnr.
However, the Shannon supremo also praised ‘Rock’s fighting qualities and said that they deserved the losing bonus point from the match.
“Blackrock deserved something from the game, they pummelled away in the last few minutes. They kept coming at us but we defended quite well and it was good not to concede any tries.”
Conversely, the sombre mood in the ‘Rock camp clearly showed and coaches Barry Gibney and Emmet Farrell were quick to express their dissapointment.
“Our set piece wasn’t great. The breakdown and scrums were heavily contested and we usually live off quick ruck ball but it wasn’t that type of game out there,” said forwards coach Gibney.
“Shannon had good quality in their side today, they started with great intensity and we failed to keep with them at the start of the game.”
Backs coach Farrell found positives in ‘Rock’s second half performance and took some respite out of the salvaged bonus point.
“In the second half we responded well but we just couldn’t score. We put the pressure on at the end but it just didn’t come,” said Farrell.
“I think it’s important when you lose that you have to get a bonus point, especially in such a tight competitive league.”
Things have now tightened up considerably at the top of the Division 1A table.
With leaders St. Mary’s College losing to UL Bohemians on Saturday, teams like Shannon and Cork Constitution, who both won at the weekend, have clawed back some ground on their Dublin rivals. Indeed, Shannon will host Cork Con in the next round on December 5.
There are two more vital rounds of action before the Christmas break, including a repeat of last season’s top flight final on December 12 when Clontarf entertain Shannon in a mouth-watering Castle Avenue clash.
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