While Shannon s senor side can claim an All Ireland Semi final, their U20 side can boast of a step further after they accounted for UCD last Saturday in the semi final of the national competition.
After topping the South Western conference they qualified automatically for the knock out stages of the All Ireland section of the competition. It was an impressive conference campaign for Shannon after dropping only two points in their 12 -12 draw against Garryowen in the penultimate round. Indeed they remain unbeaten for the season in all competitions which included the capturing of the North Munster league title after an close final with Garryowen. This Saturday Trinity College are the only obstacle facing them as they aim to add to their silverware. Dubarry Park at 2.30pm, is the venue for what should be an epic encounter between the two best U/20 sides in the country.
Trinity qualified for the final after a big win over Garryowen in the semi final last weekend. The light blues had no answer for the students fast paced rucking and slick handling skills which will no doubt not go unnoticed by the Shannon coach Eddie Price.
Throughout the season Shannon s strength has been their organisational skills on the field. Their pack will hold no fears going into the game. They produced a powerful display against a highly rated UCD side in the semi final. At times they pushed and harassed the UCD pack around at will, and one would expect a similar type of performance this Saturday.
Shannon won t finalise their side until later in the week due mainly to a number of injuries picked up in the semi final win. Their outhalf Tadgh Bennett was carried off after a late tackle, but is expected to make a full recovery, while No. 8 Glen Carr should also be fit enough to play after he picked up a knock.
Shannon have been fairly consistent in their line up to date. They have had to do without the services of Ireland U/21 hooker Sean Cronin for a large chunk of their campaign as he has been an integral part of Shannon s senior side in the AIB league. The man who more often than not played in the middle of the front row, Colm Griffin has given tremendous service to the cause and the dilemma for the managements not an enviable one.
Shannon s Front row is a powerful unit, with Ireland U/19 prop Kevin Griffin and Conor Costigan causing all sorts of problems for front rows up and down the country. Captain Fergus Walsh is a leader in the Mick Galwey mould, leading by example from the second row while Shannon s back row are dynamic to the core. Kevin Leamy, brother of Munster s Denis, has pace and skill to burn while fellow wing forward Leonard Mullane is a calculating clever player.
Out in the backs Shannon are well organised both in attack and defence. Scrumhalf Ross O Loughlin has a varied game and can set his backs in motion with slick passing. Mid field is an area Shannon are defensively very good, John Clogan is sharp and is always looking for a gap while their wingers have the ability to finish well when necessary.
Despite all their strengths, Shannon will take nothing for granted. Trinity will also travel to Athlone full of confidence and will probably expect to win.
However, the prospect of facing yet another Dublin outfit in the final will hold no fears for this Shannon team whose results to date will give them serious confidence.
Shannon have reached the final on two previous occasions in 1998 and 2000, but failed to come away with the booty.
The game has all the hallmarks of an intriguing contest and whoever comes out on top can deem themselves worthy Champions. From an entirely local perspective, one hopes that The Isle will be given a rendition in triumph.
Shannon s Des McInerny is running a supporters coach to the game and can be contacted on 087 8305745.
Probable Shannon XV
Matthew Costello, Shane Mullally ,John Clogan, Joe Manuale, Johnny Paradise, Tadhg Bennett, Ross O Loughlin, Conor Costigan ,Colm Griffin, Kevin Griffin, Brian Meade, Leonard Mullane, Kevin Leamy, Glen Carr