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Strong Finish Sees Shannon Retain Energia AIL Division 1A Status

Strong Finish Sees Shannon Retain Energia AIL Division 1A Status

Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A Promotion/Relegation Playoff Final, Thomond Park, Limerick 6/5/2023 Shannon vs Highfield Shannon’s Joshua Costello celebrates scoring a try Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

Shannon retained their Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A status with a 32-12 win over Highfield in today’s promotion/relegation playoff final.

Some moments of real quality from Josh Costello and a season’s worth of Division 1A conditioning saw them come through in the end after Highfield had initially taken the game by the scruff of the neck in the opening 40.

“We always knew against Highfield it was going to be tight and you really saw that in the first half,” said Shannon captain Ronan Coffey.

“It was nip and tuck, much like the three times we played them last season. We knew once we got going, we’d have enough for them but it was a much tighter game than the scoreline suggests.”

Shannon were on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle in the first half and failure to roll away gifted James Taylor the chance to kick his side 3-0 up after just two minutes.

Highfield’s back three were winning the kicking battle amid tense and testing conditions and the lead was out to 6-0 inside seven minutes.

With 20 minutes played, the hosts were starting to gain parity in the set piece and opted for three points from a penalty after their first visit into Highfield’s 22.

But another failure to roll away allowed James Taylor to make it 9-3, thought it could have been worse – Highfield had used their ‘free-play’ advantage well only to spill the ball over the line.

The first try of the game was scored by Shannon’s Michael Cooke after 32 minutes. Shannon were at their best when playing with tempo and it stretched Highfield’s rearguard to open up a gap for the outhalf to exploit off a strong maul.

The discipline was improving for Stephen Keogh‘s men, but Highfield still had time to kick themselves into a 12-10 lead at half time.

Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A Promotion/Relegation Playoff Final, Thomond Park, Limerick 6/5/2023
Shannon vs Highfield
Highfield’s James Taylor kicks a penalty
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Ken Sutton

Josh Costello turned the game on its head within 10 minutes of the restart. Quick hands found him out wide and he somehow got the ball down at the corner flag – Cooke’s touchline conversion reflecting Shannon’s growing confidence.

There didn’t seem to be too much danger when Highfield spilled the ball in the tackle after 49 minutes but Costello’s execution of the chip and chase was perfect and Shannon were out to a 22-12 lead.

Shannon went for the jugular with Highfield down to 14 men for a yellow card and Luke Rigney scored on 57 minutes.

Highfield needed a score and Costello’s try-saving tackle was an emphatic response to the visitors’ purple patch.

Michael Cooke’s 76th minute penalty pushed the lead out to 20 points and Shannon’s Division 1A status was secure.

“It was great to see Josh Costello doing what he does best,” added Coffey.

“He’s had a tough season with injuries although we saw against Lansdowne before Christmas he had those couple of moments of magic to win us the game there.

“You can talk about finishing in the top half of the table but staying up was really our goal in our first season back in 1A.

“We’ve had cup winning teams at U18 and U20 level this year as well so we should have a good crop coming through as well.”

Saturday May 6th 2023

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Final:

SHANNON 32 HIGHFIELD 12,  Thomond Park

Scorers: Shannon: Tries: Michael Cooke, Joshua Costello 2, Luke Rigney; Cons: Michael Cooke 3; Pen: Michael Cooke 2.
Highfield: Pens: James Taylor 4
HT: Shannon 10 Highfield 12

Live Stream (via Highfield RFC): https://www.youtube.com/live/-czxIZhO5rg?feature=share

SHANNON: 15 John O’Sullivan, 14 Aran Hehir, 13 Cian OHalloran, 12 Harry Long, 11 Joshua Costello; 10 Michael Cooke, 9 Ethan Coughlan; 1 Conor Glynn, 2 Jordan Prenderville, 3 Darragh McSweeney, 4 Ronan Coffey (capt) 5 Jade Kriel, 6 Colm Heffernan, 7 Kelvin Brown, 8 Lee Nicholas. Replacements: 16 Shane Carew, 17 David Maher, 18 Cathal Hynes, 19 Odhran Ring, 20 Jack O’Donnell, 21 Alan Flannery, 22 Daniel Hurley, 23 Luke Rigney.

HIGHFIELD: 15 Seán Quaid, 14 Ben Murphy, 13 Cian Bohane, 12 Mark Dorgan, 11 Luke Kingston; 10 James Taylor, 9 Chris Banon; 1 Cillian Buckley, 2 Travis Coomey, 3 Daragh Fitzgerald, 4 Sean Garrett, 5 Eoin Keating, 6 David O’Connell (capt), 7 Amhlaoibh Porter, 8 Miah Cronin. Replacements: 16 Robert Murphy, 177 Ian McCarthy, 18 Niall Downing, 19 Mark Fitzgibbon, 20 John O’Callaghan, 21 Richard Cassidy, 22 Colin O’Neill, 23 Gavin O’Leary.