Sport Rugby

Sunday 23 July 2017

Tucker delight as Shannon go top

Kieran Rooney

ST MARY'S COLLEGE coach Peter Smyth didn't hide his admiration for Shannon as they put aside their off-field problems to go top of Division 1A of the AIB League with a bonus-point success at Templeville Road on Saturday.

"Hats off to Shannon," said Smyth. "They didn't make mistakes, played very well in possession and any time they got a sniff of a score they took it. That's why they have won the league so often.

"We got a lesson out there in terms of the concentration and intensity it takes to win this league. When we got it back to 22-16 in the latter stages, I was proud of the passion and commitment of my side.

He added: "But there's no points for territory unfortunately. I wouldn't know what's going on off the field with Shannon, but they certainly don't seem to have too many problems on it."

All credit to Smyth because he must have been deeply disappointed to have seen his side concede a needless fourth try just two minutes from time, thereby depriving them of a losing bonus point.

Shannon are all the more determined these days, if that's possible, because of their recent fine and suspended points deduction. They played with a huge amount of passion and skill. And just as important as their ability to take their chances, was an outstanding defensive performance.

The game failed to sparkle in the opening quarter, but once Shannon centre Fionn McLoughlin took advantage of some superb work by Stephen Kelly to score Shannon's opening try, it took off.

The sides were level 10-10 at the interval, out-half Tadgh Bennett adding the conversion for Shannon and also landing a drop goal. St Mary's responded with an equally good try from Darragh Fanning, with Gavin Dunne kicking the conversion and a penalty.

But the tide was to turn early in the second half. Within nine minutes Shannon had scored two further tries, the first of which will not be bettered all season.

Bennett, later to go off injured, figured twice, starting the move after collecting a clearance on the touchline in his own half. Flanker Eoghan Grace and prop Les Hogan were also involved before No 8 David Quinlan got over near the corner.

A second try from flanker John O'Connor, converted by Bennett, followed to leave Shannon 22-10 in front. St Mary's hit back with two penalties from Dunne to reduce the deficit to 22-16 and apply some tremendous pressure.

But Shannon held firm before McLoughlin availed of a St Mary's mistake to run in from halfway for his second and his side's fourth try.

"We have to be very proud of our achievement in getting four tries to go top of the table, although Cork Con do have a game in hand." said Shannon, coach, Colm Tucker. "There was a lot of passion and a lot of skill. It was just a really good performance, both in defence and attack. Putting results right on the pitch is where our focus is."

St Mary's College -- G Dunne; R Doherty (Conor Quinn 79), S Grissing, M Sexton, D Fanning; S McCarthy, C McPhillips (Cormac Quinn 79); K Carroll (C McMahon 59), G Hickie (D Kilbride 79), R Sweeney, G Logan (S Bradshaw 55), R Copeland, D Hall, P Nash, H Hogan (Capt).

Shannon -- D O'Donovan; R Mullane, M Lawler (Capt), F McLoughlin, S Kelly; T Bennett (J Colgan 64), F McNamara; L Hogan, M Essex (J Cronin 20), G McNamara (K O'Neill 70), P O'Brien (P Loughnane 76), D Ryan, J O'Connor, E Grace, D Quinlan.

ReF -- S McDowell.

Irish Independent

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