Ireland prop Marcus Horan played the first 50 minutes of the game on his return from long-term injury but it wasn’t a particularly happy evening either for himself or for a Shannon side that was pushed back for long stretches of an entertaining encounter.
Indeed, it was the failure of the Shannon pack to cope with the fired up and hungrier home opposition, especially in the set pieces, that proved the chief difference between the sides.
Veteran back-row forward Paul Neville was an inspirational figure throughout for Garryowen while up-and-coming hooker Mike Sherry again enhanced his reputation with an outstanding 80 minutes.
It was a busy day for Sherry, who travelled with the Irish Wolfhounds to Scotland for the A international only to discover that his services were not required, and he was able to catch a flight back from Edinburgh to Shannon in time to play for his club.
Scrum-half Conor Murray is another young player of considerable potential and he hit it off nicely with out-half Declan Cusack.
Nevertheless, Shannon led at half-time thanks mainly to a typically well taken try by winger Stephen Kelly along with a penalty by Gareth Quinn-McDonogh, who came into the game at out-half in the opening minutes in place of the injured Tadgh Bennett. Cusack knocked over two penalties for Garryowen who up to the interval had been unable to break down a stubborn Shannon defence.
However, it was a different matter after the break as Garryowen’s Alan Gaughan and Paul Neville took advantage of defensive errors to run in two soft tries.
Sherry powered over for another touchdown on the hour as Garryowen continued to dominate the proceedings. Cusack converted to make it 25-8 before Shannon prop Les Hogan touched down after a close-range lineout. They nearly had a replica try deep into stoppage time that would have earned them a bonus point but this time referee Alan Lewis deemed that they had been held up.
GARRYOWEN: L Bourke; A Gaughan, C Hircock, C Doyle capt, R O’Mahony; D Cusack, C Murray; JP Cooney, M Sherry, D Lavery, F McKenna, A McCloskey, P Neville, A Kavanagh, D Sherry. Replacements: B McNamara for Cooney 67; S Buckley for McCloskey 80; C Fitzgerald for D Sherry 80.
SHANNON: D O’Donovan; L O’Dea, M Lawler, M O’Driscoll, S Kelly; T Bennett, P Rowley; M Horan, D Casey, K Griffin, D Heffernan, F Walsh capt, C McMahon, P Butler, D Quinlan. Replacements: G Quinn McDonogh for Bennett, injured, 10; L Hogan for Horan 52; N O’Brien for McMahon 52; R Mullane for O’Driscoll 70.
Referee: A Lewis.