Dublin University bounced back from last week’s late heartbreak at Clontarf to triumph 34-28 over a battling Shannon side in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 1A: Saturday, November 12
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY 34 SHANNON 28, College Park
Scorers: Dublin University: Tries: Louis O’Reilly, Diarmuid McCormack, Mark Nicholson, Louis McDonough; Cons: Aran Egan 4; Pens: Aran Egan 2
Shannon: Tries: Aran Hehir, Dan Hurley, Alan Flannery, Lee Nicholas; Cons: Mike Cooke 4
HT: Dublin University 20 Shannon 14
Tony Smeeth’s youngsters have climbed back into second place in the table, with Aran Egan, the division’s top scorer, helping himself to 14 more points as they took advantage of ‘Tarf’s defeat at Young Munster.
Well-finished tries from wingers Aran Hehir and Dan Hurley had Shannon just 20-14 behind at the break. Egan had kicked two penalties and converted Trinity’s opening scores from captain Louis O’Reilly and Diarmuid McCormack.
Mark Nicholson and Louis McDonough touched down in the second half to take the students out of reach, but a late Shannon rally saw them cancel out those tries to take home two bonus points.
The Limerick men, buoyed by their derby triumph over Garryowen, got off to a positive start at College Park. Their maul gained ground and Ethan Coughlan’s high, hanging kick allowed Hurley to launch himself into a tackle on James Dillon.
Trinity looked sharp in response, winning a penalty from the first scrum and jinking centre McDonough wormed his way past two tackles before Bart Vermeulen and Liam McMahon also gained ground.
Out-half Egan rifled a penalty over from outside the Shannon 22, and with McDonough proving tough to put down again from the restart, the hosts suddenly exploited some space out wide.
Colm Hogan injected pace into the 11th-minute break, freeing up Dillon to dart down the right touchline and he expertly offloaded out a tackle for O’Reilly to cover the final 30 metres to the whitewash.
Egan converted and the students were soon charging forward again, Max Dunne with the incision this time. Shannon’s maul defence was on point a few phases later, with Sean McCarthy, Kelvin Brown and Lee Nicholas getting the plaudits.
Anthony Ryan replied to a Shannon scrum penalty with a lineout steal, keeping the students in opposition territory. Some impressive ball retention, with Harry Sheridan to the fore, led to their second try.
Ever-influential number 8 McCormack left a defender for dead by spinning out of a tackle to score under the posts. Egan’s conversion made it 17-0 earlier in the second quarter.
Once Shannon cut out the turnovers, including when prop Darragh McSweeney made a promising break but failed to connect with his support, it was their well-drilled set piece which worked them back into contention.
Following up on a scrum penalty, the visitors’ maul set up Munster Academy scrum half Coughlan to snipe and throw a sumptuous offload which allowed the onrushing Hehir to cut past O’Reilly and stretch over the line past Liam McMahon’s tackle.
Mike Cooke’s classy conversion from the right was cancelled out by an Egan penalty, but Shannon, with their tackle count ratcheting up, were clinical when presented with a late chance to break from inside their own half.
Killian Dineen did really well to tidy up a cross-field kick that had bobbled free, unleashing winger Hurley for a smashing finish from 45 metres out, cutting the gap to 20-14.
Shannon hold onto the momentum for the start of the second half, Hehir breaking past halfway and centre Dineen was almost through for a try – Trinity needed a double tackle from McCormack and Dillon.
It was a gilt-edged opportunity with two men outside him, and Shannon suffered a further setback a few minutes later when flanker Odhran Ring was sin-binned for a shoulder-led, no arms tackle on the advancing McDonough.
The home side won another penalty soon after, and the resulting 15-metre maul propelled hooker Nicholson over the line at a rate of knots. Egan’s boot made it 27-14, a significant cushion again.
The seven-man Shannon pack almost fired back with a try from a short lineout, however captain Ronan Coffey was denied by the cover tackling of O’Reilly and Nicholson.
Despite injured scrum half O’Reilly unfortunately having to be stretched off, the Trinity bench – including debutant prop Jerry Cahir – kept them on course. With a quarter of an hour remaining, they effectively wrapped up the result.
Nice hands from Egan sent Gavin Jones breaking through the middle and he put the supporting McDonough over just to the right of the posts. Egan converted with his sixth successful kick out of six.
Nonetheless, Shannon deserve huge credit for how they finished the game. They fought for every inch and battled right up past the 80-minute mark, earning late scores through replacement Alan Flannery and former captain Lee Nicholas.
Coughlan supplied another assist, his inviting pass releasing Flannery to score from close range, and it was a break from his half-back partner Cooke which gave them the momentum for Nicholas to burrow over right at the death.
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY: Colm Hogan; James Dillon, Louis McDonough, Gavin Jones, Liam McMahon; Aran Egan, Louis O’Reilly (capt); Bart Vermeulen, Mark Nicholson, Paddy McCarthy, Harry Sheridan, Max Dunne, Anthony Ryan, Aaron Coleman, Diarmuid McCormack.
Replacements: Matthew Victory, Jerry Cahir, Stephen Woods, Dan Barron, Cormac King, Hugh O’Kennedy, Dylan Ryan, Sam Berman.
SHANNON: Jamie McGarry; Aran Hehir, Killian Dineen, Jack O’Donnell, Dan Hurley; Mike Cooke, Ethan Coughlan; Kieran Ryan, Jordan Prenderville, Darragh McSweeney, Ronan Coffey (capt), Sean McCarthy, Odhran Ring, Kelvin Brown, Lee Nicholas.
Replacements: Alex Long, Cathal Hynes, David Maher, Jade Kriel, John O’Sullivan, Alan Flannery.