With the game entering its 86th minute, Clancy penalised Shannon for encroaching offside under their own posts, leaving Scott Deasy with the simple task of banging over a third Cork Con penalty to give his side a 9-8 victory.
It wasn’t the only call from the official that angered Shannon. A few moments earlier Clancy pinged scrum-half Robert Guerin for a crooked feed to a scrum, even though the scrum-halves on both sides had been guilty of the same indiscretion throughout the game and escaped punishment.
From the resultant quick tap, Con attacked the left corner and after Deasy was stopped inches from the corner, they recycled the ball quickly to force the penalty that earned the precious points.
Shannon captain David Quinlan accepted the outcome without complaint and was instead keen to focus on their need to collect full points away to Clontarf next week if they are to remain on course to retain the AIL title.
“It’s hard to tell about the penalty but we shouldn’t have been in that position so it was our own fault,” he accepted. “Sometimes the decisions go for you, sometimes they go against you. Unfortunately, we’ve been on the back of some bad ones recently but that’s the way it happens and hopefully we can come back from it.”
Cork Con coach Brian Walsh understood Shannon’s sense of disappointment without, however, seeing any reason why Clancy should be criticised.
“I wouldn’t have been aggrieved had the game gone the other way because it was so close,” he commented.
“I thought it was a very good decision at the end and I’m delighted the referee had the guts to give it. A lot of fellas wouldn’t. I thought he had a very good game and was fair to both sides.
“On a difficult day, he allowed play to develop and used commonsense. In the heat of the moment, you’re going to be irate. I was equally irate when we gave away the penalty to go behind but it was the right decision then and it was the right decision at the end. They’re tough to take when you lose a match like that but it’s fine margins and discipline is a huge part of it. We suffered hugely today from a lack of discipline with 15 minutes to go.”
Con had first use of the strong wind and rain in the opening half but were lucky to lead 6-5 at the break. Deasy put over an early penalty but Shannon looked the hungrier side. Their pack adapted superbly to the conditions and the backs, too, were full of running in the poor conditions.
Excellent young wing-forwards Eoghan Grace and Paddy Butler – both Tipp men – and out-half Tadgh Bennett played key roles in the build-up to a fine Stephen Kelly try in the left corner. They might have had another after an intensive attack coming up to the interval. Deasy earlier landed a second penalty for Con but it hardly looked like a single point lead would suffice turning to face the elements.
However, the visitors upped their level of performance and were doing nicely until conceding a silly penalty after 65 minutes which Bennett converted. Shannon now looked safe and came back to exert strong pressure on the Con defence. To their credit, however, they were equal to the task before patiently working their way down the field to claim the late, late winner.
“We’re delighted with the result and the way we stuck it out,” said Walsh. “You don’t have a successful season unless you can come to Limerick and win. It was an education for a lot of fellas who had never played here before in that kind of intensity and to come out the right side of it was great.”
CORK CON: S. Deasy; R. Lane, T. Gleeson, E. Ryan (c), C. Healy; D. Lyons, D. O’Driscoll; M. Gately, R. Quinn, S. Archer, M. O’Connor, I. Nagle, B. Holland, P. O’Mahony, F. Cogan.
Replacements: E. Leamy and A. Ryan for O’Mahony and O’Driscoll (60).
SHANNON: F. Jones; R. Mullane, M. O’Driscoll, F. McLoughlin, S. Kelly; T. Bennett, R. Guerin; L. Hogan, M. Essex, G. McNamara, P. O’Brien, F. Walsh, P. Butler, E. Grace, D. Quinlan (c).
Replacement: K. O’Neill for Hogan 75.
Referee: G. Clancy (IRFU).