Con hang on for hard-fought win

IN AS tough a game as either side have experienced all season, Cork Constitution held out for a victory at Temple Hill yesterday to enhance their position at the top of the AIB League.

It was a nail-biting experience for their supporters as they watched their side cling to the lead in the last dramatic moments of an intense struggle and the full time whistle couldn’t come soon enough for Con coach Brian Walsh.

“We had to grind a victory out from a good position,” he said afterwards. “We played very well in the first half although we didn’t take all our chances. We didn’t play anything as well in the second in that we had opportunities to close the game out; certainly we had opportunities to slow down the tempo and to get more control of the game, but didn’t do that. As a result we struggled to hold our lead, and Shannon gave it everything.

“It was a very good, intense, rugby game, and I hope our guys can learn from the experience.”

Shannon’s Geoff Moylan cited Constitution’s physicality as a key factor. “We had our chances but ran up against a brick wall; in the end, the first score decided the game which was a pity from our point of view, but we will take some positives from this.”

But as Shannon head home in the knowledge that they’re still in the hunt at the business end of the league — they have three home fixtures, against Old Belvedere, UL Bohemian and Dolphin to play — they did suffer a major injury blow to scrum half and captain Fiach O’Loughlin, who sustained a suspected fractured jaw.

Constitution had a dream start, with referee Alan Lewis awarding a penalty try inside 20 seconds. The home side created an obvious scoring opportunity courtesy of a magnificent break from out half Jeremy Manning who sought to put winger Cronan Healy in. Healy was held as he went to gather the pass and Lewis had no hesitation in giving the try that Manning converted.

It got better for Con, with Manning kicking two penalties in the fourth and 10th minutes before Shannon, in an opening raid, were awarded a penalty and Tadgh Bennett reduced the margin to ten points.

Con were reduced to 14 men — Ed Leamy sin binned for a deliberate knock on but Shannon failed to take advantage, Fionn McLoughlin yellow-carded for obstructing Tom Gleeson — Con took the resultant penalty chance, with Manning kicking his side into a 16-3 lead seconds from the half-time break.

The first score of the second half fell to Shannon, with Bennett kicking his second penalty in the fourth minute which heralded a siege that twice came close to yielding tries, for outstanding flankers Donncha Ryan, and Niall Ronan who were driven back by an aggressive Constitution defence.

Shannon were finally rewarded with a David O’Donovan penalty in the 77th minute which salvaged a bonus point. They came desperately close to clinching a draw as they pounded the Constitution line in the closing seconds of an absorbing game.

CORK CONSTITUTION: D Lyons; C Healy, T Gleeson, E Ryan, S Zebo; J Manning, D Williams; D Hurley, D Fogarty, T Ryan; M O’Connell, D Kelly; F Cogan (capt), B Holland, E Leamy.

Replacements: A O’Brien for Manning, 62; J Moloney for Kelly, 64; B Cuttriss for Cogan, 78.

SHANNON: D O’Donovan; R Mullane, J Clogan, F McLoughlin, S Kelly; T Bennett, F O’Loughlin (captain); K O’Neill, M Essex, K Griffen; P O’Brien, F Walsh; D Ryan, D Quinlan, N Ronan.

Replacements: M O’Driscoll for O’Loughlin, 39; E Grace for McLoughlin, 47; J O’Connor for O’Brien, L Hogan for O’Neill, both 67.

Referee: A Lewis (IRFU).

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