Shannon's Conor Glynn races through the Old Wesley defence during his side's win last weekend on the back pitch in Thomond Park Picture: Dermot Lynch
PROMOTION-CHASING Shannon play their crucial game in hand in Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League when visiting Musgrave Park to take on struggling Dolphin on Easter Saturday, 1.30pm.
A 78th minute penalty from out-half Conor Fitzgerald edged Shannon to a vital 24-21 win over Old Wesley on Thomond Park’s back pitch on Saturday.
Despite this win, Shannon remain in third place in the table, six points off leaders Ballynahinch and five points behind second-placed Banbridge.
Shannon have three games to play in the regular season, including this Saturday’s Munster derby with Dolphin, while Ballynahinch and Banbridge have just two regular season fixtures to come.
Limerick’s remaining six senior clubs will return to Ulster Bank League action on Saturday, April 7 with Munster A in British and Irish Cup quarter-final action with provincial rivals Leinster A at Donnybrook on Good Friday.
After a highly competitive opening half on Saturday, Shannon and Old Wesley turned over level at half-time, 9-9.
Conor Fitzgerald’s three penalty goals for Shannon were cancelled out by nine points from the boot of Wesley winger Jack Maybury.
Shannon took full advantage of an Old Wesley sin-binning after the restart to cross for two well-worked tries in as many minutes from Pa Ryan and Darren Gavin. Suddenly the lead was 12 points.
However, the home side was reeled in, conceding two tries, for 21-21, before Fitzgerald landed his match-winning penalty.
Afterwards Shannon head coach Tom Hayes agreed it was a huge win for his charges who hadn’t managed to win any of their three previous league outings.
“We had to put our recent run of results to bed a little bit. We have a block of four games now in all, playing four weeks in a row.
“Hopefully any rustiness that might be there will be blown out of the way now and fingers crossed we can get back to the intensity we need to attack the few games that are left with a bit more vigour.”
While Shannon are chasing promotion to the top flight for next season, Saturday’s opponents Dolphin are facing an uphill battle to preserve their 1B status.
The bottom-placed Cork side are 13 points behind ninth-placed UL-Bohs in the relegation battle, although the Leesiders have a game in hand on the Red, Red Robins.
Tom Hayes said: “It is a crucial game. Our record down there (Musgrave Park) isn’t fantastic over the past few years, so it certainly is a tall order for us, but that is what is in front of us to try and get whatever we might want out of the rest of the season.
“We have to go after it, we have no choice, that is what is in front of us and we will see what mettle we have when we stand up to it and go after it and see where it takes us.”
Hayes is hopeful that the competitive nature of Saturday’s fixture with Old Wesley will stand to his side for this weekend’s test in Cork.
“It should (stand to us). We are into a block of four games and we have the first one out of the way. Fingers crossed, we will be a different team next week, maybe a bit more of an impressive outfit.”
Asked if he felt Shannon would need to claim victories in each of their remaining three fixtures to maintain their promotion push, Hayes said: “Probably, I’d say. I can’t see the other two slipping up two much, anyway.
“We did enough to get the win out of the game (v Old Wesley) which is the least we wanted or needed, so we will take that and move on to next weekend against Dolphin.”
Shannon sit 35 points clear or Dolphin in the 1B table, recording 10 wins to date compared to Dolphin’s two victories.