Shannon gave their survival hopes in Division 1A of the AIL a real boost at the weekend thanks to a 31-13 win over UL Bohs.
IF this was a soccer rivalry, then the Shannon supporters might well have broken into a chorus of, ‘Can we play you every week’, at the end of their impressive 31-13, bonus point victory over local rivals, UL-Bohemian.
After all, Shannon’s only wins in their entire AIL Division 1A campaign have come at the expense of their co-tenants at Thomond Park, with the brace of victories accounting for 9 of the 12 League points the Parish side has racked up.
Shannon remained rooted to the foot of the top flight table, but Friday night’s vital victory has brought the AIL’s most successful club to within two points of UL-Bohs.
The gap between Shannon and third-from-bottom is six points, but there are still eight rounds of games to go. Resilient Shannon have given themselves a real shot at pulling off the great escape. The club finishing bottom at the end of the regular season faces automatic relegation to 1B, with the side finishing second last having to rely on winning a relegation play-off to retain their status.
The outlook for Shannon is looking considerably brighter than it did for the turn of the year. The same cannot be said for UL-Bohs, who have been sucked right back into a relegation dog-fight.
Shannon’s hugely influential team captain, Tadhg Bennett, who bagged two of his side’s four tries in a highly impressive individual display, said the eye-catching performance had been coming for some time.
“That result was exactly what we needed, especially after slipping up last week against ‘Tarf at the same time UL-Bohs were winning in Dublin,” 27-year-old out-half Bennett said.
“Beating them tonight with the bonus point draws them back to us, reducing the seven point gap which was there.
“We knew a result like this was coming. We felt it was a matter of time before we clicked. We are starting to get a lot of players back from injury as well. Selection is getting a lot harder.
“Collectively it is all coming together for us. To have the likes of Luke O’Dea, who is dangerous every time he gets the ball, and Marcus, who gives you that solid platform up front, it is great. But it numbers 1 to 20 that won that match. That is what it is going to take for the rest of the year to keep us up.”
Shannon, who had excellent displays up front from Kevin Griffin, Emmet McLoughlin, James Murphy and John Shine, led 14-6 at half-time. The winners also had tries from returning Munster star O’Dea and their Connacht winger, James Loxton, while former Rockwell star, David Johnston bagged UL-Bohs’ sole five-pointer in the second period.
UL-Bohs head coach, Colm Tucker felt Shannon had ‘hungered them off the park.’
“It was very disappointing. We didn’t perform. Shannon were the far better team, I thought,” Colm Tucker admitted.
“We didn’t play well in the first half, but got a try at the start of the second to get us back in the game. We didn’t kick on. I thought some of their forwards were key. Physically, they were on top of us.
“We were second best in the work rate aspect of things. We have to take a good look at ourselves.
“We are putting a lot of pressure on ourselves, but there is still a lot of rugby to be played yet. We have huge games to come and we need to front up.”
SCORERS – Shannon: Tadhg Bennett two tries, Luke O’Dea, James Loxton try each, Rob Guerin four cons, one pen. UL-Bohemian: David Johnson try, Ben Martin pen, pen, con.
SHANNON – Luke O’Dea; James Loxton, Eric Moloney, Richie Mullane, David O’Donovan; Tadhg Bennett (Capt), Rob Guerin; Marcus Horan, Duncan Casey, Kevin Griffin; Fergal Walsh, Emmet McLoughlin; James Murphy, John Shine, Dan Heffernan. Replacements: James Cronin, Gary McNamara, Mike Essex, Mike Culhane, Mike D’Arcy.
UL-BOHEMIAN – David Johnson; Alan Rossiter, Mossy Lawler, Niall Kenneally, Rory Whyte; Ben Martin, Cathal Sheridan; Tom Burke, Sean Henry, Gary Walsh; Ed Kelly (Capt), Dave Foley; Conor Kindregan, Ian Condell, Jack O’Donoghue. Replacements: Alex Simpson, Ed Rossiter, Darragh Frawley, Sean Rennison, Tim Rafferty.
REFEREE – George Clancy (IRFU)