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Buckley The Hero As Shannon Record Second League Win
11 November 2003, 1:19 am
It s hard to imagine a team who had just won their second AIL game with a convincing performance, come off the field disappointed, but that was the initial feeling of many of the Shannon Players.
It's hard to imagine a team who had just won their second All Ireland league game with a convincing performance, come off the field disappointed, but that was the initial feeling of many of the Shannon players when the final whistle blew in Dungannon last Saturday.

Despite winning by 26 points to 8, they realised that the bonus point was there to be taken, however in his post match analysis, Coach Geoff Moylan expressed his delight at gaining such a valuable win in Stevenson Park and with two opening wins in the league the platform is well and truly there for his side for another serious assault on the title.

Shannon scored three tries with prop forward Tony Buckley notching two either side of the half time whistle, but it the overall display from the entire side that maintained their record of never losing to Dungannon in 10 meetings.

It was a dream start for the visitors when, with barley a minute on the clock Andrew Thompson, taking over the kicking responsibilities from the unavailable Tom Cregan, tapped over a penalty when Dungannon dived over the top in the first ruck of the game. It was a short held lead as just 4 minutes later Shannon strayed off side and full back John Mc Guiken put Dungannon on the scoreboard with a long range penalty.

The opening 10 minutes or so was a typical "getting to know you" period with neither side exerting any sort of dominance, but slowly and constructively Shannon began to dictate the pace of the game and were rewarded for some good play when Tony Buckley barged his way over to score Shannon's opening try. The move started on the half was line with the backs and forwards combining to bring play just short of the line.

Dungannon were committed to the ball carrier so frequently that the inevitable scramble occurred close in and when the big Shannon prop received the final pass 5 meters out, there was little the two or three defenders could do but unsuccessfully attempt to drag Buckley down but when this big man is in full flight there's little anyone can do to stop him. Thompson was unsuccessful with the conversion.

That try seemed to motivate Dungannon and they enjoyed possibly there best spell soon after. Through well orchestrated mauls they found their way into the Shannon '22 on several occasions and only for some stout and resolute defending by Shannon they would have scored earlier than they did. Their pressure did finally pay off after 28 minutes when Seamus Mallon scored a try, which turned out to be their last score of the game.

A penalty kicked to touch inside Shannon's '22 created a good maul form the home side. When the momentum was finally disrupted the spun the ball quickly from right to left. While they did make some ground, it appeared that when Mallon was finally held up the move would breakdown but cleverly, the Dungannon centre managed to break free form the tackle and squirm his way under a number of defenders.

The conversion drifted wide and the score was tied at eight apiece. This set back proved a mere hindrance rather than a catastrophe for Shannon as they began to turn the screw on their opponents for the remainder of the half. Shannon's scrum was operating well and their lineout rarely failed to yield extra meters and with time running out in the opening 40 minutes, it was from a lineout that they score their second.

Shannon were awarded a lineout on the 10-metre line. A safe catch followed and then a superb maul that lasted all the way to within 10 metres of the Dungannon line. Scrum half Fiach O'Loughlin, who enjoyed a fine outing, spread the ball wide and a serious of pre rehearsed moves resulted in John Lacey diving into the corner to give his side a 13 points to 8 lead at the interval.

Shannon could be well pleased with the opening half's display and when the second period begun it was more of the same as the visitors went in search of more tries. It didn't take long for their third to come; 7 minutes had elapsed and John O'Connor playing superbly from the openside of the backrow, managed to turnover a Dungannon ball on the half way line.

A little chip from Fiach O'Loughlin had the Dungannon defence briefly disorientated and Brian Buckley fearlessly gathered the ball and set up a ruck metres form the line. O'Loughlin was quick to the breakdown and with Tony Buckley in prime position to take the pass from the ruck the inevitable happened .The prop was already diving for the line before he received the ball and there was little that could be done to halt his momentum.

Thompson added the conversion to give his side a comfortable 20-8 lead. While Shannon were in command, it was by no means a foregone conclusion that they would go onto win the game. Dungannon were spirited in their response and were unlucky not to score soon after Buckley's try when the ball was held up over the line due mainly to Shannon's determination not to concede scores.

A killer blow to Dungannon came after 17 minutes of the second half when a well taken Andrew Thompson drop goal edged Shannon closer to the comfort zone. Another penalty from Thompson 5 minutes later put the result in little doubt and Shannon set about getting a bonus point, but they had little opportunity to exceed their three try tally. Dungannon finished slightly stronger, but at that stage all that they were playing for was pride and a consolation try that never came.

Shannon can be very happy with their start to the AIL. Nine points from two games is something that very few could have predicted given the amount of players on representative duties but one thing is for sure, there will be no relaxing in the Shannon camp. Belfast Harlequins travel to Thomond Park next weekend and they will no doubt be a difficult prospect. But for a couple of days at least Shannon can bask in a wonderful start to the AIL.

Shannon Team:

1.Gary Mc Namara (rep Trevor Downes) 2. Jerry Flannery 3. Tony Buckley 4. Brian Buckley 5. John Hadnett (rep Tony Flynn) 6. Garrett Noonan 7. John O'Connor 8. Tom Hayes (Capt.) 9. Fiach O'Loughlin (rep George Murray) 10. Andrew Thompson 11. David O'Donovan 12. Eoin Cahill 13. Brian Tuohy 14. Ian Dowling 15. John Lacey.

Final Score: Dungannon 8 Shannon 26

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