Thomond at 20-10 looked home and hosed on the 78th minute mark. Even when Shannon were awarded a kickable penalty, few would bet on the final outcome. Shannon pointed to the posts to try and give themselves a very outside chance of overall success. John Clogan slotted over the penalty and a converted try was now the aim for the home side. But still, no one, including this writer, could even imagine what transpired in the short time remaining. Injury time was ticking beyond the 4th minute when Thomond were awarded a scrum in their own 22. Ball at the No.8’s feet, all going to plan for Thomond. A swift pass, kick to touch and that would be that….but that’s not what happened. Shannon’s outstanding scrumhalf Michael Darcy frustrated his opposite number to the extent that he won his side the ball. Two passed later Willie O’Connor was in for his second try of the game. Stunned as they were, Thomond still lead by 20-18 with the not so straight forward conversion to come. Clogan stepped up and casually slotted it over, and that was that. Well for normal time anyway. It was almost incredulous, but 20 more pulsating minutes were to come.
Thomond had taken the lead with a first half try from Dean O’Brien after Shannon were loose and scrappy in their defence and that was more or less the story of the first 40 minutes. Thomond were on to and Shannon had little in the way of response. The visitors added an early second half penalty through Gareth Airy before Shannon provably splashed their faces with cold water and woke up.
Clogan threaded through a neat chip for Willie O’Connor to chase and the bounce was kind to the winger. He still had a bit to do, but managed the task well to open Shannon’s account. A few minutes later it was Aaron Spring’s nimble foot work allied to his strength that saw him go over from 20 metres out. Conversions were missed on both counts, but still Shannon lead by 10-8.
Sleepy time came again for Shannon and during this period Thomond took full advantage and crossed for two tries that should really have seen them home and hosed. Weak, fingertip Shannon tackling allowed Richie Ryan canter in for a converted try in the 66th minute and then 5 minutes later Colin Liston benefited from a turnover on the half way line.
7 minutes plus a bit of injury to hold out for Thomond. 10 points up, easy peasy. Not so, and a combination of a battling Shannon team and poor game management from Thomond conspired to see the game reach its theatrical conclusion.
Extra time simmered away just as dramatically. Shannon scored a penalty through Clogan and it now looked as if it was them that were on the way. Thomond looked deflated and had another Clogan penalty landed just before half time of extra time than that would most likely have been that, but alas it drifted high and wide and the soda cakes were still in with a shout.
Shannon still controlled the second 10 minutes for the most part except for those closing 2 minutes when Thomond summoned the energy for one last blast. They worked their way in the 22 and kept to a tight pick and go plan. Shannon committed the numbers, but almost inevitably, in the manner of which the game was being played, Thomond got a penalty. There was no hesitation to point to the posts and the simple kick was landed. Word got to the Shannon players that they had to win the game to advance, but unfortunately the bag of drama was empty, and the game concluded as it began, in a draw.
Thomond advance, Shannon lick their wounds. That’s life.
P. Curtiss, C. O’Neill, A Spring, J.Clogan,P. Clancy, M. Darcy, K. O’Neill, A. O’Brien, B. Downey, M. Madden ,K. Hanley ,E. Cunnane, L Mullane, F. Broderick