Elwood in top form as Galwegians get better of Shannon

GALWEGIANS paraded most of their big guns at Thomond Park on Saturday. They had Eric Elwood back in regal form at outhalf and as many as six members of the Connacht pack up front — and they needed them all and then some to eke out a four-point AIB League victory over Shannon.

In the circumstances, it was a splendid match, much helped on a miserable afternoon by a benevolent display of refereeing by David Tyndall who waited 20 minutes of the first half before awarding the first penalty. There were only four in all before the interval and another nine in the second half.

It wasn’t he was letting things go that should have been punished, rather that he used his common sense and left many in the crowd of around 500 wondering why we can’t have more of the same every week.

The 18-14 scoreline in Galwegians favour made it a second successive

league defeat for the defending champions. Apart from a pretty poor display of goal kicking, they also missed two gilt-edged try scoring chances in the first half. Firstly, scrumhalf Fiach O’Loughlin had a good 15 yard headstart on his pursuers having intercepted a pass just outside his own 22, but was overtaken with surprising ease by the two Galwegian wingers, Nigel Carolan and Ger Brady, and secondly, Niall McNamara knocked on as he dived to score in the right corner.

Shannon had taken the lead with a fine try by Marcus Horan after only five minutes but all the time Elwood was making clever use of the wind and rain. He put his team front with a couple of penalties and then added the conversion to a smartly taken try by the useful looking centre Martin McPhail on the stroke of half time. The importance of that seven pointer was not lost on Galwegians coach Kevin Dinneen.

“We paid Shannon the compliment of putting out a full-strength pack because we reckoned anything less would not be enough at Thomond Park,” he said. “Yet, they tore us apart in the first half and only for that individual try by McPhail when nothing else was on, we’d have been in a lot of trouble.

“It gave us a defendable lead going into the second half. Our defensive wall stood up well and of course they missed a lot of kicks just as we had done against Cork Con.”

A 13-5 lead hardly looked enough for Galwegians as they turned to face the elements, especially when fullback Dougie Walters landed a Shannon penalty within five minutes of the resumption. However, the kick wasn’t struck with any degree of conviction, a point underlined when he later missed a couple from reasonable positions.

Galwegians regrouped, setting up the kind of rolling mauls once synonymous with Shannon, and created the opportunity for scrumhalf Alex Kay to plunge over in the corner after 64

minutes. At last, Shannon turned to Andrew Thompson as place kicker and he duly knocked over two out of three shots but in the end they were sufficient only to salvage a bonus point.

“We owed a lot to the way Elwood controlled the game, how well Martin McPhail took his try at a crucial stage and the way hooker Jerry Flannery came back to play against his old club and put in such a fantastic 80 minutes,” said a relieved Dinneen.

More in this section

Sport Newsletter

Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox