The young flanker grabbed two tries of such quality that it prompted Shannon coach Colm Tucker to suggest he would inevitably win a Munster contract.
“I think it’s not a matter of if it will happen, but when,” said the coach.
Tucker said that the better side lost yesterday, however, and added that 22-year-old Grace’s contribution was absolutely crucial on a day when luck finally went Shannon’s way.
“We lost a few tight games like that at the start of the league campaign so I’m happy to take the win on this occasion, but Dolphin will probably feel they were better team on the day; they will be disappointed. It really was a case of us taking our chances,” he said.
Under-strength Dolphin had every reason to feel disappointed, as articulated by the coach Steve Ford who admitted to having taken some calculated selection risks: “We have a really busy schedule and we simply had to rest players, some of whom are carrying knocks.
“Naturally we are disappointed, I don’t like losing matches but I cannot fault the effort at all; I think the guys stood up to the challenge and came up short only in terms of execution. We had opportunities to turn possession over and to score tries but didn’t do it.
“We will take some positives from this game; today we were using our squad system, that’s why we brought these guys (youngsters) into the club, we wanted to develop our game and we are doing that. The experience will stand to the guys and they know the match could have gone either way in the end.”
Shannon out-half Tadgh Bennett kicked two penalties, but that advantage was wiped out when Dolphin scrum-half Sam Cronin intercepted and set off on a 55-metre run for a try Cormac O’Flynn converted.
Shannon subsequently looked slightly more threatening but found themselves unable to make the crucial breakthrough until late in the half, when Grace finished off a movement to score a try Bennett converted for a 13-7 lead.
Dolphin were much more proactive in the second half and dominated territory for much of the third quarter. The home side were twice held out close to the Shannon line before O’Flynn narrowed the gap with a 55th-minute penalty.
The game exploded into life as it drew to a close. Grace scored a brilliant try after Stephen Kelly’s diagonal burst and Bennett tacked on the extras for a 20-10 lead.
Dolphin’s Eric Moloney responded by scoring under the posts with O’Flynn converting, but Shannon held out to progress to a semi-final clash with UCC.
DOLPHIN: D McCarthy, N O’Driscoll, E Moloney, K Lynch, R Kenneally, C O’Flynn, S Cronin, R O’Neill, T O’Callaghan, A Foley, K O’Dwyer, T Keogh, G Finn (capt), H O’Flynn, B O’Mahony.
Replacements: C Rowe for Keogh (53), P Hurley for Kenneally (62), J O’Sullivan for Foley (66).
SHANNON: D O’Donovan, C O’Hanlon, M Lawler (captain), R Mullane, S Kelly, T Bennett, R Guerin, L Hogan, M Essex, G McNamara, P O’Brien, F Walsh, P Butler, D Quinlan, E Grace.
Replacements: F McNamara for Guerin, J O’Connor for O’Brien (both 56), K O’Neill for Hogan (72), B Gibbons for Grace (74).
Referee: T Collins (MAR)