Five years after relegation to Division 1B, the Limerick giants secured promotion with a hard-fought win over UCC at Thomond Park on Saturday. Nine-times champion Shannon have always had a loyal band of supporters who are now encouraged by a talented group of players and a dedicated coaching panel led by Tom Hayes, a member of former successful teams along with brother John. Tom was starring for Exeter Chiefs in the Premiership when Shannon fell through the trapdoor and was a very relieved man at the final whistle: “We’re enjoying the moment and glad of the way we managed to take hold of the game just when it looked to be getting ropey”, he commented.
“Once we got back on script and were able to stick to the plan, it finally told. I’m delighted to see the club get back up. I was over in England when things went awry a little bit but there’s a good bunch of guys here now who have seen dark times and I’m really happy for them to have a moment like this. We’ll probably have to strengthen our panel, the summer months can be turbulent for all clubs, but as I say we’ll enjoy the moment for now”.
Of the hundreds of delirious Shannon supporters ringing Thomond Park’s back pitch at the finish of Saturday’s game, few if any were as happy as Noel (“Budda”) Healy, a marvellous supporter of the club as player and official for many years.
“It was a superb game, 14-all at half-time, a great display by UCC, but we went out in the second half and played like champions and we are looking forward to going back to Division 1A. Our future is very bright because this is a very young panel. Hopefully we’ll keep them altogether”.
With a touch of mischief, Healy went on: “You know what, the five years we took out of the division, we tried to let other teams win the league like Garryowen and Young Munster, but unfortunately they didn’t do it and now we’re back to do it again”
UCC, for their part, now take on St Marys College in Dublin on Saturday next hopeful that they can maintain their excellent form of the opening forty minutes when winger Cian Bohane, prop James French and number eight Daire Feeney were outstanding, and maintain that form for the full 80 minutes.
Ulster Bank League Division 1B: Shannon 40 UCC 17
Greg O’Shea, Conor Glynn, Ty Chan, Aaron Hehir, Fionn McGibne tries; Conor Fitzgerald 3 penalties, 3 conversions.
Cian Fitzgerald, Travis Coomey tries; James Taylor one penalty, 3 conversions.
F McGibney; N Randles, P Ryan, W Leonard, G O’Shea; C Fitzgerald, K Kavanagh; C Glynn, T Chan, T Cusack, R Coffey, S McCarthy, C Heffernan, K Brown, L Nicholas.
L O’Halloran, C Parker, J Kriel, A Hehir, J O’Donnell.
S McAuliffe; L Murray, P Kiernan, K Slater, C Bohane; J Taylor, J Poland; J French, T Coomey, B O’Connor, B O’Mahoney, C Barry, C Fitzgerald, J Hodnett, D Feeney.
F Hennessy, R O’Donovan, R Thompson, T Fitzgerald, J Kiernan.
M Patton (IRFU).