SHANNON suffered a chastening experience when suffering a 36-3 drubbing at the hands of city rivals Young Munster in their Ulster Bank League opener at Thomond Park.
Clinical Young Munster secured a precious bonus point win over their struggling hosts in the opening Friday Night Lights fixture of the new Division 1A season at Thomond Park.
Plenty of food for thought then for a disappointing Shannon side who were simply bullied, out-muscled and out-played in the second period by their opponents who bagged two late tries to pick up a maximum five-point haul.
Shannon narrowly avoided being involved in a relegation play-off at the end of last season and on the evidence of this opening weekend display, the AILs most successful side have a lot of work to do if they are to be challenging in the top half of the table this time round. Next up for Stephen Keogh’s side is a trip to Dublin to face Lansdowne this Sunday.
Their cause was not helped on Friday night by a facial cut sustained by Munster prop Marcus Horan which forced him off after just 23 minutes of the game.
While Young Munster’s backroom team will be thrilled by the margin of their victory, they will fully appreciate that they still have plenty of room for improvement and that bigger tests lie ahead, beginning with Saturday’s marquee home fixture with holders St Mary’s College.
Munsters’ will head to the capital encouraged by the early season form of their exciting half-backs, Munster U-20 scrum-half Brian Haugh and their one-time Shannon out-half Gareth Quinn-McDonogh. There was also much to admire in the play of pacy centre Mark Doyle and winger Dom Lespierre, who came to Greenfields from Perth in Australia on the advice of former Munsters’ player Alan Kingsley.
While Young Munster’s Director of Rugby, Mike Prendergast agreed it was a pleasing result, he was urging caution.
Prendergast said: “It is the first game, but it was pleasing. There is still a lot to work on. Our pack really stood up in the second half and Gareth Quinn-McDonogh was pulling the strings and Brian Haugh as well. Defensively we were quite good as well.
“Dom (Lespierre) came to us through a contact with Alan Kingsley who he played with in Australia. He played sevens with Guyana and is an exciting player.
“Mark Doyle has electric pace. He may not look the biggest of guys physically, but he is very, very strong. If he gets that outside break he can be devastating.
“It is one game out of 18. We have a long, long season ahead. We have Mary’s, the champions, coming down to our place next weekend. We had a bit of a roasting off them last year. That will be motivation for.”
Shannon head coach Stephen Keogh admitted his side had been beaten up.
Keogh said: “I think it’s previous obvious from what people saw out there. We got beaten up. At the end of the day, rugby is a physical game and if you don’t front up, you are going to get beaten by a good scoreline and that is what happened.
“We will keep working hard. We have a game next week against Lansdowne. A week is a short time in rugby. We have a week to turn things around.
“The lads are very disappointed in the dressing room. I am sure they will be determined to turn that around this week.
“We need to win against Lansdowne. We won our first three games last season, but we didn’t win a match for a long time after, I am not panicking, put it that way. But we do have to get a positive result out of Dublin next week.”
After a largely disjointed, stop-start opening 35 minutes which yielded a 6-3 lead for Munsters’ in showery conditions, the game finally sprung to life in the few minutes before the break with Shannon number eight Mike Essex and Munsters’ English-born winger Dom Lespierre were sin-binned following a melee involving several players from both sides.
Munsters’ pacy centre Mark Doyle was on the end of an excellent move to touchdown, after the initial incision was made by number eight Neville Melbourne.
The score helped Munsters’ into a sizeable 11-3 interval lead and they completely dominated the second half with Doyle adding a second try and Lespierre and prop Ger Flaherty, following a terrific rolling maul completing the rout with further touchdowns.
A minute’s silence was observed before kick-off as a mark of respect to Noel Clohessy, father of former Young Munster players Ger, Peter and Des.
SCORERS – Shannon (Ben Sargent pen). Young Munster (Mark Doyle two tries, Dom Lespierre, Ger Flaherty try each, Brian Haugh three pens, two cons Gareth Quinn-McDonogh drop goal)
SHANNON – Richie Mullane; Cathal O’Neill, Brian Smith, Willie O’Connor, Mike D’Arcy; Ben Sargent, Rob Guerin; Marcus Horan, Duncan Casey, Kevin Griffin; Johnny Sheerin, Dan Heffernan; James Murphy, John S Shine, Mike Essex. Replacements: Garry McNamara, Fergal Walsh, Darragh Turner, Mike Culhane, Darragh Fitzgerald.
YOUNG MUNSTER – Craig O’Hanlon; Dom Lespierre, Mark Doyle, Lukas Kuntz, Darragh O’Neill; Gareth Quinn-McDonogh, Brian Haugh; Ger Flaherty, Ger Slattery, Darragh Cantillon; Sean Duggan, Darren Gallagher; Colin Liston Luke Russell, Neville Melbourne. Replacements: Hugh McGrath, Mike Madden, Pat Fitzgerald, Mike Prendergast, Ger Burke.
REFEREE – George Clancy (IRFU)