LIMERICK sides experienced mixed luck on the opening weekend of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League.
Young Munster and Shannon did record two precious home victories in Division 1A, but Garryowen suffered an opening day defeat at Dooradoyle.
Last season’s semi-finalists Munsters’ began with an exciting victory over holders Old Belvedere at a wet Tom Clifford Park. Ray Moloney’s try in the 79th minute, after Old Belvedere had failed to deal with Mike Prendergast’s box kick, proved crucial. Out-half Willie Staunton landed five penalty goals, a drop goal and conversion as Munsters’ fought back from 12-19 down with 20 minutes to go to record a deserved victory.
Shannon began life in the AIL under new head coach Stephen Keogh with an exciting 21-18 victory over Dolphin at Thomond Park.
The Cork side looked capable of collecting the points when jumping into a significant 15-3 lead after 20 minutes, thanks to two tries from their Limerick-born centre Eric Moloney.
However, Shannon, inspired by their impressive pack, rallied strongly and a fine personal haul of five penalty goals from Gareth Quinn McDonogh and two more from Ben Sargent helped the Limerick side edged the outcome.
Munster Senior Cup finalists Garryowen suffered a 9-13 defeat to St Mary’s College at Dooradoyle.
Mary’s led 6-3 at the end of a highly competitive opening period, but Garryowen’s Munster out-half Declan Cusack kicked his side level 11 minutes into the second period. The game turned in the visitors favour on 68 minutes when scrum-half Matt D’Arcy crossed for a fine try.
Limerick’s two representatives in Division 1B had to be content with picking up losing bonus points after suffering opening day defeats on the road. UL-Bohemians suffered a narrow 14-12 defeat to Belfast Harlequins at Deramore Park despite producing a strong second half comeback. Ireland Under-20 international JJ Hanrahan kicked all of UL-Bohs’ points - three penalties and a drop - but ‘Quins, who led 11-3 at half-time, took the spoils. Munster Senior Cup finalists Bruff suffered a 17-11 reverse at the hands of Buccaneers at Dubarry Park.
Despite a try from Andrew Cashman and penalty goal from Tony Cahill, Bruff trailed 8-10 at half-time. Bruff took the lead at the start of the second half through another Cahill penalty, but a Conor Lavelle try turned the tide in Buccs’ favour.
In Division 2A, Old Crescent made an encouraging start after securing a 14-14 draw with Old Wesley at Donnybrook. Crescent host Midleton at Rosbrien this Saturday in their second fixture. Thomond made a losing start, however, going down on a 26-6 scoreline to DLSP at Kirwan Park. Next up for the royal blues is a home tie with Old Wesley at Fitzgerald Park on Saturday.
See this weekend’s print edition of the Limerick Leader for more coverage of the AIL