More than 2,000 people turned up to watch on a dry, calm evening but the quality of football for the most part was disappointing and it was not the kind of game that will restore the image of the club game. In the final analysis, it will be best remembered for the closing five minutes during which Shannon seemed to have stolen the points only to be foiled by Staunton’s wonder drop kick.
Garryowen’s international scrum-half Conor Murray kicked them into the lead with a penalty after 10 minutes and the home side had further good news after 22 minutes when a shindig involving both packs resulted in a yellow card for Shannon flanker Eoghan Grace.
Shannon gradually came more and more into the picture but their cause wasn’t helped when the normally ultra reliable Tadgh Bennett missed with two penalty shots from relatively favourable positions. Garryowen were thankful to still enjoy their three-point advantage at the break and they were again under pressure almost from the restart.
Felix Jones, who failed to gain a place in Munster’s starting 22 at the RDS this evening, had his first outing in the Shannon colours but was well contained on the few occasions that he gained possession. However, a try looked very much on the cards when he made a characteristic midfield break shortly after the restart but Grace was unable to hold his pass.
Garryowen were kept on the defensive for long stretches until they eventually gained a foothold in Shannon territory on the hour and Murray struck a fine penalty from almost halfway to put his side six points ahead very much against the run of play. Shannon then shot themselves in the foot with a late tackle on Staunton in the 66th minute that enabled Murray to push Garryowen 9-3 in front. However, Shannon seemed to have grabbed the spoils in the 80th minute when David Quinlan got the touchdown following a line-out maul and Bennett atoned for his earlier failures with a touchline conversion to put his side 10-9 ahead. However, from the restart Garryowen regained possession and after an interminable number of phases, set up Murray who found Staunton with a text book pass and he duly sent a superb drop kick sailing between the posts.
Joy for Garryowen, despair for the champions but both will need to do a whole lot better than this if they are to capture the title and please the fans.
GARRYOWEN: L Bourke; R O’Mahony, C Doyle (capt), K Hartigan, I Hanley; W Staunton, C Murray; J Harney, M Sherry, D Lavery, D Sheehan, F McKenna, P Neville, C Hartigan, D Sherry.
Replacements: D McCarthy for K Hartigan (50 mins); A McCloskey for Sheehan (81).
SHANNON: D O’Donovan; F Jones, M O’Driscoll, M Lawler (capt), S Kelly; T Bennett, F O’Loughlin; L Hogan, B Duggan, K Griffin, P O’Brien, F Walsh, J O’Connor, E Grace, D Quinlan.
Replacements: P Loughnane for Walsh 15 mins; K O’Neill for Hogan (64); F McNamara for O’Loughlin and J Clogan for O’Driscoll (both 68).
Referee: P Haycock (Munster)