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Lacey Gets 50, but Shannon fail to Impress

17th November 2003 By Munster Rugby

With just a minute left on the clock, Shannon s Tom Cregan lined up for a long-range penalty, which would give his side a one-point lead.

With just a minute left on the clock, Shannon s Tom Cregan lined up for a long-range penalty, which would give his side a one-point lead.

With just a minute left on the clock, Shannon’s Tom Cregan lined up for a long-range penalty, which would give his side a one-point lead.

As he struck the ball, slightly off balance the winger knew that it wouldn’t make the target, and as it’s momentum petered out striking the posts, so too did Shannon’s hopes of a fourth successive ALL Ireland League win. If it had gone over, it would half been a get out of jail card for the visitors to the Belfield Bowl. UCD deserved their two-point win by virtue of the fact that they took the game to Shannon from the first whistle.

Shannon’s defence, which has been their foundation thus far in the league was breached on two occasions in the first half and what can only be described as a loose performance contributed greatly to their downfall. UCD were always the more lively of the two sides and a willingness to attack on the fringes yielded countless opportunities out wide. After 20 minutes Shannon were in the unusual position of being 15 points in arrears and it was always an uphill struggle to claw back the deficit, however a more concerted effort in the second period ensured that the game went to the wire.

For John Lacey it was a bitter sweet day, The Shannon full back became the first player to score 50 AIL tries when his 60th minute effort gave his side a glimmer of hope. Shannon went into the game with a couple of serious disruptions, both during the week and on the morning of the game. Their big prop, Tony Buckley, who has been highly impressive in the league, was injured in a midweek training session and it would appear from early prognosis that he could be out for up to 4 weeks.

A freak accident while practising lineouts meant that Garrett Noonan was forced to watch his colleagues with the aid of crutches after he landed on the ball awkwardly. It was a blow to Shannon, but they were fortunate to have a number of very capable reserves.

After winning the toss UCD elected to play into the substantial breeze but the tactic very nearly backfired early on as two early penalties for Shannon should have yielded at least one score. A quick tap 5 meters form the line saw John Lacey held up and one wonders if that effort was scored, would the complexion of the game have been different. From that point UCD dominated and controlled the game while starving Shannon of any decent possession.

Their opening try came after just 6 minutes when a series of phases had the Shannon defence scrambling. UCD’s out side centre, Ken Kennedy showed a fantastic burst of speed when he received the ball on the ’22 and with the slightest hint of a gap appearing, he needed no formal invitation. Shannon were left standing and Kennedy scorched over. The extra points weren’t added, but the confidence of the students was highly visible. The had the opportunity to extend soon after, but former Shannon Player, Niall Mc Namara’s effort drifted wide but he made amends after 19 minutes with a fine long range effort.

At this stage it was a difficult to see where any Shannon scores would come from; UCD had a firm grip on the game and when they scored their second try after 22 minutes Shannon’s task looked impossible. From a lineout on the half way line they attacked the channel between 9 and 10 at great pace, a ploy that was prosperous for the students on several occasions previous. With tacklers forced to commit to the ball carrier the creation of space out wide was inevitable and a sweeping backline movement saw right winger Gareth Hayes touch down close to the corner flag.

A fine conversion from Niall Mc Namara stretched the lead and the uphill battle was well and truly on for Shannon. For a brief period they put pressure on the UCD line and when Andrew Thompson appeared to have touched the ball down over the line it looked as if the revival was on. However the referee, after a long look, deemed that the outhalf was held up, but for one who was merely feet form the action, this reporter felt it was a wrong decision. It did seem to give Shannon a bit more confidence and they began to assert a little more of their customary authority on the game. Their first points of the game came 5 minutes before the break when Tom Cregan tapped over a simple penalty in front of the posts.

With the breeze at their backs in the second half Shannon should have had a more positive start to the second period, but once again the Students dictated the pace. Shannon rarely threatened the line and when Mc Namara extended UCD’s lead with a 51st minute penalty a Shannon comeback looked a distant hope. But in fairness to Shannon they never capitulated fully and were rewarded for their tenacity when Tom Cregan kicked a long-range penalty after 58 minutes. By now Shannon were showing signs of a possible recovery and began to pound the UCD line for a try that would see them back in contention.

Eventually it came after a sustained period of pressure. In a controlled and patient fashion they found themselves 5 metres from the line A quick ruck allowed Fiach O’Loughlin to shovel a pass to John Lacey, who had taken up position on the narrow side. With a number of defenders in position it looked as if the opportunity was missed, but the full back had shown on 49 previous occasions that he knows where the line is, and showing strength and dexterity he crossed for his personnel milestone, but more importantly, his sides lifeline. Cregan added the conversion and it was not beyond belief that Shannon could go onto win the game. That belief was further strengthened when Cregan again found the target after 71 minutes.

With only two points between the sides Shannon could sense dramatic victory. The students resolve seemed a little dented but creditably, remained somewhat intact until the 79th minute when over exuberance in a ruck afforded Cregan the opportunity to give his side a single point lead. Agonisingly for him and his teammates it hit the post and the bounce was favourable to UCD. Shannon continued to seek another opportunity for a win right up to the final whistle, but the students had done enough to ensure that Shannon have yet to win in the Belfield bowl.

It’s by no means a disaster for Shannon, and given results elsewhere in the league they still lie only two points adrift at the top of the table. There is however negatives to be taken from this performance.

Shannon’s most effective weapon in their armoury appeared to be a rolling maul from a lineout, but inexplicably it was rarely deployed. Their attacking potency was largely rendered ineffective due in no small part to some simple and basic handling errors and some ill fated decisions. It would be unfair to end on a negative note and while disappointed with the loss the Shannon management can look to a spirited display in the second half. UCD are a very capable side and will surely dent the ambitions of several clubs in the league, especially in the Belfield Bowl where their record remains most impressive.

The AIL takes a back seat this weekend and for Shannon it’s a trip to Midleton in the Munster senior Cup and an opportunity to right some of the mistakes of last Saturday.

UCD 18 Shannon 16

Shannon Team:

1.Gary Mc Namara (rep Trevor Downes) 2. Jerry Flannery (rep James Blaney 3. Frankie Roche 4. Brian Buckley 5. John Hadnet (rep Trevor Hogan 6. Colm Mc Mahon 7. John O’Connor 8. Tom Hayes (Capt.) 9.Fiach O’Loughlin 10. Andrew Thompson 11. David O’Donovan 12. Eoin Cahill 13. Brian Tuohy 14. Tom Cregan 15. John Lacey.

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