Match Report v Ballynahinch
Photo From Dermot Lynch
The omens were good from the offset on Saturday as the sun beat down on Thomond Park from early morning. The conditions were drastically opposite to our previous home game where the rain beat down in sheets and the pitch was waterlogged. The importance of the match was not lost on anyone least of all the squad, who looked solid and focused in the warm up; while there was an excited buzz amongst the loyal supporters who didn’t jump for the first real opportunity to get away to the coast for the weekend. Credit also must go to our fantastic underage that showed up in droves and showed their usual enthusiasm - flags in hand, welcoming the Firsts onto to the pitch
It was a Shannon kick off and Conor Fitzgerald wasted no time in getting the match off the ground. He followed up his own kick and blocked down the Ballynahinch attempt to return, Robbie Deegan was first up and got a hand on the ball to recover back. We carried the ball on but Hinch managed to turn over, kicking to our 22. We returned the ball only for Hinch to kick back, this time a deep kick that went over the try line, allowing us a 22 drop out. Hinch recovered nicely and set their attack in open space as they crossed into our half. They held the ball and attacked hard, exploiting an overlap in our defence and ran in a comfortable try putting them 5-0 up after 3 minutes. The try went unconverted.
We kicked off again and Hinch returned, only to kick out on the full, gifting us a lineout on their 22. We spread the ball wide here and were looking confident. We gained a penalty for Hinch coming up offside and Conor Fitzgerald got the first points on the board bringing the score to 5-3 at 6 minutes. We began to shake off any nerves that might have been lingering and settled into the match.
Hinch kicked off straight into touch and we gained a scrum on the half way. Ballynahinch drew first blood in the scrum as we were penalised and they took a fast one, looking to use the available space. Shannon came up offside and as a result, Hinch had a penalty coming; they chanced a lucky cross-field kick that didn’t quite go to hand so we came back for the penalty just right of the posts on our 22. It sailed over the bar bringing the score to 8-3 to Ballynahinch at 10 minutes.
We kicked off again and Hinch recovered returning a kick to Stephen Fitzgerald who made yards to the half way, he managed to get a lovely pass back inside to Conor Glynn who was running on at pace. Conor put the head down and evaded tackles from left right and centre running in a smashing individual try. Conor Fitzgerald converted bringing us into the lead 10-8 at 12 minutes.
Ballynahinch kicked off and we recovered running the ball at the Hinch defense. We kept the attack tight while working it slowly towards our 10 until fisticuffs saw a break in play and Shannon came out the wrong side of the ref’s decision allowing Hinch kick to inside our 22. The took the lineout and mauled but we dug in and stopped it in its tracks holding it while their scrumhalf gathered and ran, crossing with the out half and getting penalised in the process. We kicked back to our 10, Ballynahinch poached the lineout launching an attack up the right wing, quickly supported by the forwards who were crashing on in pods. Two minutes of Ballynahinch pressure saw them eventually knock on and we scrummed down. It was a strong scrum from Shannon, we kicked from the back and gave chase but were unlucky to knock the ball on. We settled in for a Ballynahinch scrum on their 22. Our back row reacted quickly to halt the attack as the Hinch 8 picked and went, the Hinch scrumhalf put up a box kick that we returned but we didn’t get the touch and Hinch took the lineout on our 22. They went wide off the lineout and it was Robbie Deegan who shot the line to put in a great hit. They got the ball away in contact and sent their winger through on a break but we had him covered. They continued their attack edging closer to our line when a Shannon offside allowed them a shot at goal which they successfully took leaving the score 11-10 to Ballynahinch at 23 minutes.
We kicked off the next play with Hinch opting to return. Greg O’Shea was quick off the mark to block the kick down and it was a Shannon lineout on the Hinch 22. Great carries from both Jon Foley and Niall Mulcahy off the back of the lineout saw us spread the ball wide and Greg rounded off a lovely passage of play by going in under the posts for a well worked try. It was converted by Conor Fitzgerald at 26 minutes leaving the score 17-11.
Conor Glynn recovered the kick off and carried the ball into contact, a wayward kick from the back of the ruck went dead and Hinch were in possession of a scrum on our 10. Hinch spread it wide from the scrum, skip passing to the wing. We covered across well and held the defensive line as the Hinch forwards took on the ball around the corner. We then gained a penalty for Hinch hands in the ruck; Conor Fitzgerald kicked us to half way for a Shannon lineout. Hinch stole the lineout and launched a quick attack wide using the open space but were unfortunate to knock on just inside our half. We gained a penalty in the scrum and kicked to the Hinch 22, overthrowing the resulting lineout. Hinch recovered the knock on and again shipped the ball wide, knocking on the ball. We kicked ahead but came back for the scrum. We gained another penalty in the scrum and opted to tip and go. Riley Winter took on the ball and made the hard yards, closely supported by Will Leonard who made a great break. Will was tackled on the Hinch 5 and in the next ruck Hinch were shown a yellow for taking out Keith Kavanagh. Conor Fitzgerald again stepped up and slotted over the penalty leaving the score 20-11 with four minutes remaining in the first half.
Ballynahinch took back possession from the kick off and Luke Moylan was on hand to make solid hits, the ball was dropped and Greg O’Shea got a boot to it in free play but the ball went dead allowing Ballynahinch a scrum. They picked and went, spreading it wide with Nathan Randles putting in a solid hit to touch, signalling the end of the half with Shannon up 20-11.
Half time entertainment was provided by our underage girls and boys who showed off the skills they are learning in Coonagh each Sunday. They were split into four teams and they revelled the chance to play in Thomond Park while soaking up the sunshine!
Ballynahinch kicked off the second half, we knocked on while receiving and Hinch took the scrum on our 22. They picked and went off the back with the eight feeding the ball to the centre who broke the line and ran to the 5 where he knocked on the ball in contact. We were in possession of a scrum on the five. A fantastic Shannon scrum forced the penalty and Stephen Fitzgerald stepped up to kick us to our 10. Keith Kavanagh received the ball from the lineout and cut back inside allowing our forwards out to support the back line. We worked our way down the pitch, Keith Kavanagh again getting quick ball out of the rucks allowing good carries. We took a kick for touch and the ball went out on the full. Hinch took a lineout on our 22 and Riley Winter used his height to pull off a great steal. We mauled on but were guilty of coming in from the side and Hinch kicked the penalty to our 22.
We again poached the lineout but were unfortunate to knock the ball on, it was a Hinch scrum on the half way. Hinch went wide but again Greg O’Shea was on the ball and quick off the mark forcing a Hinch error and the ball went into touch. Luke Moylan dominated in the air and got the ball to Keith Kavanagh but we knocked on in the next phase. Hinch went wide off the scrum and kicked to our 22. We mauled from the back of the lineout until it collapsed and Hinch sniped in for a turnover. They brought the attack to indie our half when they gained a penalty for Shannon not rolling away. They opted for the posts and were successful bringing the score to 20-14 to Shannon at 53 minutes.
Hinch kicked off and Greg got under it making a great break to the Hinch 22. He passed back inside to Robbie Deegan who got isolated and Hinch turned over over but kicked out on the full. We knocked on in the lineout and Hinch were in possession of a scrum on their 22. They got the ball out wide and kicked to the waiting hands of Stephen Fitzgerald who linked up well with Luke O’Dea. We lost possession in the following play and Ballynahinch picked and went making slow but steady yards each time. They again kicked to Stephen Fitzgerald who was steady under the ball but we knocked on in the next play. Hinch broke from the back of the scrum and Will Leonard was on hand to put in a great cover tackle forcing the Hinch knock on. We recovered and kicked to our ten for a Hinch lineout.
They set up a maul from the lineout but we gained a penalty closely followed by a second penalty in the scrum. Conor Fitzgerald then kicked us to the Hinch 10 for a lineout, from which we got quick ball off the top and spread it wide. Luke O’Dea took possession and carried well taking the ball into contact. We were then awarded a third consecutive penalty for Keith Kavanagh again being pulled into the ruck. The penalty was at an awkward angle but Conor Fitzgerald made light work of it leaving the score 23-14 to Shannon after 65 minutes.
Ballynahinch kicked dead from the kick off and we dropped out chasing to shut down the Hinch attack. They kept the ball tight but knocked on. A solid scrum saw us attack through the backs, we retained possession and attacked wide utilizing open space. As we entered the last ten minutes, Duncan Casey got a hand to the ball and carried us over their 22. Duncan passed off the Luke O’Dea who in turn linked up with Luke Moylan who was high tackled into touch. A penalty from the high tackle saw Stephen Fitzgerald kick us to touch in the Hinch corner. We kept the ball in the cover of the forwards in the lineout and continued to pick and go down the pitch as we crossed over the Hinch 5. We changed the direction of the attack but the pass was a fraction late and we knocked on the ball. Hinch opted to pick and go and ran it from the back, kicking ahead. We returned the kick which was again returned, the backs continued to trade kicks until it ball went into touch from a Hinch boot. We threw to the back of the lineout and got ball out wide. Hinch turned over and kicked deep into the waiting hands of Conor Fitzgerald who took the ball back in. Tony Cusack made a great break and made good yards but was unfortunate to knock on the ball, Hinch recovered and then gained a penalty for us not rolling away from the ruck.
Hinch kicked to our 10 and mauled from the lineout breaking quickly from the back. They held onto possession and continued to crash the ball remaining on our 10. We turned over the ball and kicked ahead with Greg in hot pursuit. Hinch got a hand to the ball first and passed back inside giving away a penalty for holding onto the ball in the next ruck. Conor Fitzgerald kicked us to the Hinch corner and we mauled off the lineout. John Foley remained in control from the back of the lineout and bided his time until we crept over the line and he downed the ball. Conor Fitzgerald dropped the conversion from his hand leaving the score 30-14 at 84 minutes.
Ballynahinch turned over possession from the kick off and kicked the ball dead signalling the end of the match. It was a fantastic display from Shannon who dominated from early in the first half. They held the focus all day and completed the task they set out to do coming away with a win. It was a fitting result for a team that have given it their all.