Dolphin v Shannon
200 Caps for Dunny!
We were straight back into league action this weekend with our firsts traveling to Musgrave Park to play Dolphin, who were hot on our heels in the league with them in 8th place and us in 7th. Solid rain for almost 24 hours before the match saw the deterioration of the pitch and even before kick-off we all knew the type of rugby this weather would make us play. The match was also a sentimental one for the club, as David O’Donovan would mark his 200th AIL cap and lead the team out onto the pitch. Shannon kicked off the match and straight from the go, the puddles and mud reared up. The first five minutes saw both sides test the conditions with short passes and crash balls. Stephen Fitzgerald made a nice break around the five minute mark but this was well anticipated by the Dolphin defence and any spark shown was well and truly shut down.
Ariel tennis followed for the next few minutes with the back three from each side testing their counterpart; however each team displayed solid hands under the high ball. Dolphin took on the ball from one of these kicks and spread it back in towards the forwards. They kicked to touch and won the resulting lineout on Shannon’s 22. They took the ball off the top of this and spread it wide, setting up a maul that gained momentum and was moving slowly towards the Shannon line. Shannon did well to hold up the ball going over the line. Dolphin had the put-in in the subsequent scrum and the Shannon pack got the job done by pushing Dolphin off it. We took the reset and Tadhg Bennett kicked to clear the line. We were quick off the mark and took a quick one from this with Stephen Fitzgerald getting a good pass off to David O’Donovan who chipped on the ball. Dolphin gathered this but Stephen Fitzgerald was again too quick, winning a turn over. Shannon were forced to kick into touch as the Dolphin defence were coming up at pace.
Dolphin overthrew the line-out but managed to get a hand on the ball at the back. From this the ball was spread out wide and they chanced a chip through that Shannon gathered and a well-placed kick got us touch. Frank Bradshaw Ryan displayed his usual confidence in the air and set up a maul in which we made good yards. Tadhg kicked off the back of this; Dolphin recovered and took the ball into contact. Dolphin had a good break here, but Shannon held the concentration and put in all of the necessary tackles. Dolphin, now attacking Shannon’s blind-side saw Conor Glynn get in position to make a great steal and turn over the ball. Lee Nicholas was on hand to receive the next pass, finding James Vaughan who took it in and gained a penalty our way for Dolphin not releasing. We took a kick to touch from this and won the line-out with Frank Bradshaw Ryan again taking the ball and setting up a maul. The ball was dropped and a Dolphin player tried recover before accidentally knocking it into touch. From this line-out we set up a maul, this was pulled down and a penalty awarded to Shannon which Tadhg slotted over leaving the score 3-0 after 21 minutes.
Sean McCarthy caught the kick off and passed to Tadhg who kicked to touch, unfortunately it went straight in so Dolphin were awarded the line-out. The throw in was deemed crooked by the ref and so Shannon were in possession going into the following scrum. Lee picked and went from the back of this and linked up with Tadhg who kicked down the pitch. The kick was returned and also went out on the full leaving us with a line out. Frank took this in the air and found Mike Kennedy who got the ball to Will Leonard. The ball went through the backs hands and Frank Bradshaw Ryan gained back possession close to the side line. With the Dolphin pack breathing down his neck, Frank was forced into a pressure kick to touch. Dolphin took the resulting lineout and spread the ball out wide, when Shannon were penalised for coming from the side of the ruck. Again Dolphin elected to kick to touch; Frank did well to disrupt the lineout and Shannon gathered back possession. A kick and a good follow-up tackle saw Dolphin off their feet at ruck time and Shannon were awarded a penalty.
We lost the following line out and granted Dolphin a few yards, as they entered our 22 we gained a turnover and kicked the ball to waiting Dolphin hands. Dolphin took the ball back into contact and seemed to be in control until again Shannon won a turnover in the ruck. Tadhg kicked this, Dolphin recovered and were on the gallop. They were unlucky to knock this on and Shannon awarded a scrum. Tadhg again kicked this to clear and Dolphin gained back possession and began to move the ball. Will Leonard was unlucky to give away a penalty for a high-tackle and Dolphin elected to kick their penalty to touch giving them a lineout on Shannon’s 22. They knocked-on the ball off the back of the lineout and Shannon were again awarded a scrum. Lee Nicholas took a quick pick and go and linked up with Tadhg who kicked. The kick was returned to the waiting arms of Stephen Fitzgerald, who again returned the kick. Dolphin were now in possession but dropped the ball, Dunny kicked the ball through and Dolphin gave away another penalty in the following ruck for not releasing. Tadhg kicked this over and after 37 minutes the score read 6-0, the score remained the same up until half-time.
The second half started off much the same as the first, the weather was still playing havoc. We gave away a penalty in the second minute for not rolling away, Dolphin kicked this to touch. They won the lineout and were attacking with confidence, Shannon’s defence was solid however and every player put in the hits as needed. They continued this attack for two or three minutes with Greg O’Shea putting in a great hit and again Dolphins efforts to get over the line were held up. Tony Cusack was unfortunate to see a yellow card after five minutes. Dolphin were in control with possession in the scrum in front of Shannon’s posts. Their number 8 took on the ball from the back and was met with solid defence in the form of James Vaughan who put in a great hit and Will Leonard on his shoulder who forced a lightning fast turn-over. What followed was almost a full minute of both full backs trading kicks back and forth. Eventually Dunny and Mike Kennedy found themselves charging after one of Tadhg’s high balls and Mike managed to get a boot to the ball. Both backs chased as fast as they could as the ball bounced over Dolphins try line but were beaten by a Dolphin player who was first to get there, and kicked the ball out.
We won the resulting lineout but were unlucky to knock on the ball. Dolphin’s number 8 took on the ball from the back of their scrum and was shut down by an impressive Lee Nicholas tackle. Dolphin were still in possession and again Stephen Fitzgerald found himself under a high ball. He returned the kick and gave chase putting pressure on the Dolphin receiver who subsequently knocked on the ball. At the 56th minute mark Shannon were awarded a penalty, it was elected to kick for goal here. The penalty was far out from the posts and with the wind and rain, Tadhg was unlucky to miss the score still read 6-0. Again a trading of kicks occurred and when the ball finally made touch it was a lineout to Shannon. The ref questionably called this as crooked. Dolphin took the scrum and spread the ball out to their backs. They were then awarded a penalty for an intentional Shannon knock-on. They kicked to touch and found themselves with a line out just inside the halfway line on the Shannon side. They spilled the ball from this and Tony Cusack did well to get down on it and turn it over to the Shannon side. Dolphin reorganised quickly and gained back possession. The tackles went in again with precision but Will Leonard found himself off his feet at the breakdown and was shown Shannon’s second yellow card. Dolphin kicked the resulting penalty leaving the score 6-3 after 62 minutes.
Dolphin were strong from the kick off and their backs were on the charge, again Greg O’Shea pulled off a great tackle and Dolphin passed the ball forward. We had possession in the scrum and Mike Kennedy got the ball out to the backs where Stephen Fitzgerald took it on and expertly drew in the Dolphin defenders before offloading to Greg O’Shea who was in support, to send him over the line for a Shannon try. Tadhg converted this and the score read 13-3 at 67 minutes. Fisticuffs in the next few minutes saw a player each sent to the bin with Tadhg being the one elected to do 10 minutes for Shannon. Dolphin were starting to show signs of fatigue here exhibited when their maul gained no ground. They had to get the ball out as soon as they could and Sean McCarthy was hot in pursuit turning over a great ball, but unfortunately knocking it on just after. Dolphin took the next scrum and made a break through their backs who chipped through, but Shannon got a hand to it and grounded the ball. Again Dolphin found themselves in possession of a scrum on Shannon’s line. Lee Nicholas was once more quick off his mark and got a fantastic turnover, the ball was then kicked to clear the line and there was a Dolphin line out from just inside half way.
The line out was messy but Dolphin recovered the ball, Niall Horan stepped up and put in an awesome hit to put the Dolphin player and ball into touch. On the 80th minute Dolphin were awarded a penalty which they kicked to touch and got a line out on Shannon’s 5 meter. Shannon turned over the ball from this and gained a penalty that was kicked to touch. Two minutes later we were awarded a scrum and picked and went from the back of it, we had all the possession and kept crashing and picking and going down the pitch. This continued until 89 minutes when Shannon drove Dolphin back in a scrum and were awarded a penalty which was kicked out resulting in the end of the match.
Days like these are almost an endurance test for both players and supporters alike. It was bitterly cold and the weather dominated the match. While it doesn’t make for pretty rugby, its hard grafting matches like these that show the calibre of players we have. The Shannon lads didn’t sit back for one minute of this match, they kept the pressure on and kept attacking up until the last minute. Most importantly we came away from the match with a win and a further 4 points to add to our collection. We now find ourselves in 6th position on the league table with 25 points, well done to the all of the players involved. There was celebrations in the dressing room after with Shannon president Tim O’Donoghue speaking a few words on behalf of himself and the club to congratulate David O’Donovan on his 200th cap achievement and “The Isle” was sung with pride led by Brendan McNamara.
Photo from Dermot Lynch