Shannon consistency the key to success

REWARDING consistency has always been a Shannon thing, and it remains so under the coaching baton of Geoff Moylan in the build up to this afternoon’s AIB League final clash with Clontarf at Thomond Park (4pm).

He has also thrown club captain Fiach O’Loughlin a lifeline, giving him the chance to make an appearance in the decider after medical opinion ruled in favour of the scrum half, who has been on the injured list for a month.

Shannon defeated old rivals Garryowen 16-12 in the semi-final and Moylan has named 21 of the 22 in his squad, with O’Loughlin replacing youngster Luke O’Dea on the bench.

Andrew Thompson has been central to Shannon’s amazing AIB League success over the years, but has been ruled out with injury; he is hoping his side can triumph to give him his ninth medal. But if Thompson leads the individual medals table by the proverbial mile, there are others in this Shannon squad lining up to follow his lead.

Frank McNamara, who starts in the number nine jersey, has four medals along with substitute John O’Connor.

David Quinlan, David O’Donovan, O’Loughlin and Padraic O’Brien all have three, Les Hogan two, while Donncha Ryan, Fionn McLoughlin and John Clogan each have one from 2006.

That is all due, of course, to Shannon’s spectacularly successful achievements in knock-out tournaments, particularly in finals. They last lost a big final (the Munster Senior Cup) to Cork Constitution in 1989 and a less important one (Limerick Charity Cup) to UL Bohemian in 2007.

Since that Con match two decades ago, they have participated in 29 finals and lost just that one time their Thomond Park co-tenants. The list of triumphs – five AIB League titles, an AIB Cup, 11 Munster Senior Cups, four Munster Senior Leagues, six Limerick Charity Cups and one All Ireland Sevens title – is impressively unmatched by anyone.

Still, Shannon’s feet will be firmly planted on the ground today as they face up to the challenge from a team that has been knocking on the door for the last five years. Clontarf’s impressive semi-final victory over champions Cork Constitution will not be glossed over as Moylan sets out his game-plan.

Moylan will have taken serious note of the league result between the two in Limerick earlier this year, a result that favoured Clontarf (8-6).

“It was a tough game,” admitted Moylan, “but Clontarf deserved to win. They have shown an ability to dig deep in the tight games and play expansive rugby. We’re under no illusions that this will be our toughest game of the season against a quality side; a team that’s bound to be right up for it after losing in two previous finals.”

SHANNON: D O’Donovan, R Mullane, F McLoughlin, J Clogan, S Kelly, T Bennett, F McNamara, K O’Neill, M Essex, K Griffin, P O’Brien, F Walsh, D Ryan, D Quinlan (capt).

Replacements: J Cronin, M O’Driscoll, P Loughnane, J O’Connor, L Hogan, E McLoughlin, F O’Loughlin.

CLONTARF: P Howard, M Keating, D O’Shea (capt), B O’Donnell, N O’Brien, M Dufficy, P O’Donohue; K Dorian, A Dundon, N Treston, S Crawford, B Reilly, H Stride, N Carson, M Garvey.

Replacements: A Clarke, S Treacy, J Duffy, B Focus, M McDonald, J Wickham, P O’Brien.

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