Saturday evenings final, played in front of a reasonable attendance, pitted old adversaries Shannon and Garryowen, and regardless of what level of competition it is nothing is spared whenever these too meet. Having cruised to the final via two facile wins over Thomond and Young Munster, Shannon were slight favourites, but it took until the second half before they could stamp their style on the game and eventually win out by 22 points to 18.
The first half was instantly a forgettable affair; it was a case of nine kicks at goal, 7 successes, and not a sniff of a try in sight. The game started encouragingly but petered out after the opening forays and it took until the second period before the crowd could get excited. Tom Cregan opened the scoring for Shannon after just 2 minutes with the first penalty of the game and had an opportunity soon after to extend the lead but failed with a difficult effort.
Garryowen's outhalf, Alan Purcell levelled matters after 15 minutes but it was a short-lived parity as Cregan tapped over another penalty 3 minutes later. The loss of their Outhalf, Fionn Mc Loughlin through injury midway in the first half, impacted on Shannon's potency in the backs. It was a case of a positional re-jig, with Andrew Thompson moving from inside centre to the no. 1 berth and Brian Touhy coming into the centre. It was Touhy's first appearance for his new club after his paper work and finally been cleared form UL/Bohemian.
Neither side could, at this stage, impose any sort of authority in open play and it was left to Purcell to kick Garryowen into a half time lead with 4 efforts from five attempts. With the score at 15-6 in Garryowen's favour both coaches rung the changes at half time, with Shannon introducing Tony Buckley and Stephen Keogh, while their opponents brought in Paul Neville and Rob Laffin amongst others. These changes had an immediate impact on the game that was in dire straights. Immediately from the restart Tom Cregan reduced the deficit with a penalty and then a flash of brilliance from John Lacey made it a one-point game.
Shannon gathered possession after Cregan's penalty and worked their way up the right hand side. A long pass from Cregan found Lacey and the full back showed his class and left Garryowen trailing in his wake as he crossed for the line for the first try. The tempo of the game was considerably higher than that which went before and the rugby a bit better. Two more penalty attempts from either side were missed before Andrew Thompson dropped a goal to give Shannon a lead that they would hold onto until the end.
When David O'Donovon scorched over mid way through the second half, it left Garryowen chasing a 7-point margin. O'Donovon, scoring his sixth try in the competition, was gifted the try after most of the hard work was done by those inside. Brian Touhy showed a good turn of speed and an eye for a gap after he was the recipient of a long pass and in turn, his pass to the winger was perfect. Garryowen did manage to haul back 3 of those 7 points when another Purcell penalty was landed, but a rousing final 10 minutes saw Shannon hold out for a well deserved win.
It has been a good opening to the new season for Shannon. All of their new players have gelled well with their teammates and improvements are sure to come as the season rolls along. The Munster Senior league gets underway on Saturday and Shannon will be focused on winning this competition for the third successive season.
Shannon 1. Donal Costello (rep Tony Buckley), Gerry Flannery 3 Gary Mc Namara , (rep Frankie Roche) 4. Brian Buckley, 5. Tom Hayes (Capt.) 6 John O'Connor 7. Garrett Noonan (rep Stephen Keogh), 8 David Quinlan 9. George Murray, 10. Fionn McLoughlin (rep Brian Touhy), 11. David O'Donovon, 12. Eoin Cahill 13. Andrew Thompson. 14. John Lacey 15. Tom Cregan.