Werahiko has seen his team compete vigorously for 60 minutes before the inevitable happened, Shannon getting the score to book their passage to the decider next Saturday.
“It’s never a shame to lose to Shannon because they’re so good, but it’s of little consolation either,” the Clontarf coach said. “We wanted this one, worked hard all season to get to this stage but came up short yet again.”
But, if the bookmakers had already installed Shannon as firm favourites to take a seventh title, events in Dooradoyle might force a slight shift in the odds. Belfast Harlequins deservedly defeated Garryowen and Shannon coach Mick Galwey is expecting a tough battle at Lansdowne Road this weekend.
“Harlequins and Garryowen were the only two teams to beat us this season so we knew either of the teams would provide tough opposition,” he said.
For the moment, Galwey is content in the knowledge that Shannon came through a tough assignment against a Clontarf side that was focused, physical, combative, and skilful in key areas.
It was stalemate for much of the first half with Darragh O’Shea, the Clontarf full back, on target with a fifth minute penalty; David Delaney, Shannon’s man of the match out half, on song after 13 minutes. O’Shea kicked a second after 15 minutes and Delaney responded 12 minutes later.
But Clontarf self-destructed four minutes from the break when Wood charged into a ruck from the side and was sent to the sin bin by referee Simon McDowell.
In that time, Shannon finally got the score their mounting pressure deserved, Fionn McLoughlin rounding off a great movement to crash through near the corner. Clontarf’s lack of luck was highlighted seconds later when McAllister’s drop goal attempt came off an upright, into play, and Ian Dowling hoofed the ball away to safety.
Shannon turned on the heat after the break and might have scored after four minutes. They lost that chance but Delaney did give them breathing space midway through the half with a penalty. An eight points lead was just about right given the way the game had gone up to then.
But Clontarf were in no mood to be trifled with and Shannon certainly didn’t have things their own way. Sure, they were unlucky not to have stretched the lead when David O’Donovan finished off a marvellous move after 66 minutes to score in the corner but Mr McDowell called play back for a forward pass.
But the home side finally surged into an unassailable lead two minutes from the end of normal time. Johnny O’Connor grabbed the try after side-stepping his way past two tacklers but the alert David Quinlan made the hard yards and the inspirational pass came from Andrew Thompson.
Clontarf’s injury time try by Marc Hewitt was well deserved, but it came way too late to change anything other than the scoreline.
SHANNON: D. O’Donovan, I. Dowling, B. Tuohy, E. Cahill, F. McLoughlin, D. Delaney, F. O’Loughlin, L. Hogan, N. Conroy, T. Buckley, E. Halvey, T. Hayes (captain), C. McMahon, S. Keogh, J. O’Connor. Replacements. J. Blaney for Conroy, D. Quinlan for Halvey (both 53), A. Thompson for Cahill (57), G. Murray for O’Loughlin (70), G. Noonan for McMahon (77).
CLONTARF: D. O’Shea, M. Hewitt, C. Mahony, J. Downey, D. Rossi, D. Hewitt, M. Walls, J. Wickham (captain), B. Jackman, A. Clarke, J. Duffy, A. Wood, D. O’Brien, D. Tafanel, S. O’Donnell. Replacements. D. McAllister for O’Shea (35, inj), D. Van Zyl for Walls, A. O’Donnell for Wickham, W. O’Kelly for Clarke, A. Carney for Wood (all 60), N. Carson for Jackman (77).
Referee: S. McDowell (Ulster)