SHANNON began their first season outside of the All-Ireland League’s top flight with a dramatic, last gasp 24-22 victory in their Limerick Charity Cup final showdown with UL-Bohemian at a sunny Tom Clifford Park on Saturday.
Fellow AIL 1B side UL-Bohs looked on course to retain the Cup as the Annacotty side clung to a precious two-point lead as the clock ticked into stoppage time in a highly competitive final.
However, Shannon’s experienced out-half Tadhg Bennett wrestled the prize away from the Red, Red Robins at the death, when he landed the decisive penalty goal from 30 metres out, wide on the right, with the final kick of the game.
Shannon will have been relieved to seal their first Charity Cup final success in five seasons as the Parish side – who led 16-3 early in the second – had to haul themselves back into the contest as plucky UL-Bohs surged 22-16 in front, when winger Robbie Bourke pilfered an intercept try with less than 10 minutes remaining.
The teams shared four tries evenly over the 80 minutes, with the hugely impressive James Murphy and fellow back-rower John S Shine touching down for the winners and hooker John Sutton and exciting winger Robbie Bourke, who also kicked 12 points with the boot, dotting down for UL-Bohs.
With both sides having lost several first choice regulars from last season during the summer months, a keenly-contested, intense, physical work-out is sure to serve their inexperienced players well ahead of their respective ODM Munster Senior Cup fixtures next weekend and the start of life in Division 1B of the AIL just one week later.
While Shannon take on Limerick rivals Bruff in the Munster Senior Cup this weekend, UL-Bohs will host holders Cork Con in a repeat of last year’s final.
Shannon RFC Director of Rugby, Ian Sherwin said he was especially pleased that they had managed to win the Charity Cup for the 17th time, with such a young and inexperienced side.
“It’s great to win with such a young side,” Ian Sherwin said.
“Last week (semi-final), we had five players who were playing in their first senior game and today we had four players making their senior debuts.
“For the fellas to dig it out, when all the momentum was against them in the second half, was pleasing. We got the drop goal soon after half-time to put us 16-3 ahead and I thought we would kick on. We were doing well and had played well in the first half.
“But Bohs are Bohs. They stuck at it, did really well and played some lovely rugby. They caught us a good few times. We gave away too many penalties. They kicked their points. The intercept try we conceded was a killer. Arguably it was a 14-point swing. We had to score twice and we did that. It showed great character from a very young side.”
UL-Bohemian head coach Colm Tucker said: “It was disappointing to lose, but there were a lot of positives out there. From the Charity Cup winning side we had 12 months ago, just two players were playing today. That is a huge turnover.
“In that regard it was a huge positive that we were able to come back that strongly in the second half and put ourselves in a position to win the game.”
SCORERS – Shannon: James Murphy, John S Shine try each, Tadhg Bennett three pens, drop goal, con. UL-Bohemian: Robbie Bourke try, four pens, John Sutton try.
SHANNON – David O’Donovan; Ciaran Cunnane, Shaun Horgan, Tim Tobin, Ronan Hunt; Tadhg Bennett, Rob Guerin; Niall Horan, Duncan Casey (Capt), Jason Cronin; Keith White, Cronan Gleeson; Ciaran Power, James Murphy, Leonard Mullane. Replacements: Aaron O’Brien, Tony Cusack, Michael O’Sullivan, John S Shine, Rowan Humphries, Patrick Kearns, Ronan O’Doherty, Conor Burns.
UL-BOHEMIAN – Paul Bolger; Robbie Bourke, Mossie Lawler, Finbarr Ryan, Rory White; Tim Rafferty, Derek Farrell; Vinny O’Regan, John Sutton, Ciaran Hannon; Craig Irwin, Ed Kelly (Capt); Fintan Cross, Keith McManus, Ian Condell. Replacements: Darren Coady, Paul Quill, Dave Carroll, Shane Airey, Rob Buckley, Mark Egan, Cathal Flanagan.
REFEREE – Ken Imbusch (IRFU)