All Ireland League – Old Wesley 24 Shannon 20
Old Wesley travelled to play Shannon, the only Limerick based side in the competition, for round 6 of the AIL. But before kick-off Wesley suffered a setback when experienced flanker Stephen Boyle was forced to withdraw from the starting 15 with a wrist injury suffered in the warm up. However he was replaced by the equally competent Ian Condell, with Mark Rowley called up to the bench.
It was advantage 1 to Wesley when JJ O’Dea won a turnover inside the Shannon half. While nothing came of it, it showed Wesley were not going to be phased by the former 1A side. And after 6 minutes it paid off. After Shannon failed to find touch with a clearance kick, Ed O’Keeffe set off on a scything run bringing play from 40 metres out to the opposition 5 metre line. And following a couple of quick recycles Paul Derham powered over for the first try of the match. Rory Stynes converted for a 7 nil lead.
Right from kick off Shannon had Wesley on the back foot with their pack flexing their muscles for the first time, forcing a penalty. However out half Billy Grey pushed the kick wide. Soon after Shannon looked to be over for a try but were penalised for a double movement. Then after 17 minutes Shannon surprisingly ran a penalty in front of the posts. The gamble paid off when the Shannon pack mauled over the line for Kelvin Brown to score. Soon after the restart Ben Burns made a great 20 metre carry up to the opposition 5 metre line but no score ensued. Grey kicked a short range penalty goal to give Shannon the lead for the first and only time in the match, but shortly after Stynes returned the compliment regaining the lead for Old Wesley.
Wesley were dealt a blow when Ed O’Keeffe was shown yellow for a dangerous tackle but this did not phase the visitors; if anything it spurred them on. Burns made another fine carry bringing play to within 2 metres of the line however a penalty allowed Shannon to resist the attack. Then just on half time Shannon lost a line out, and yes, that man Burns was on hand again with a fine run. This time however from quick recycled play the ball went out the back line. A perfect pass by James O’Donovan found Tommy O’Callaghan in open space for him to cross with relative ease for a try out wide. The difficult conversion was missed but Old Wesley led 15-8 at half time.
Wesley started the second half where they left off and O’Donovan looked to be over for a try only to be deemed held up. But from a penalty Stynes extended the lead with a short range kick. One minute later Wesley were again awarded a penalty on the half way line. There were a few raised eyebrows when Stynes, who wouldn’t normally be known for his long range kicks, opted for the posts. However he struck the ball perfectly much to the approval of the visiting supporters. But the Limerick men were not giving up; would you expect them to? From the kick off Wesley failed to collect and Shannon ran in, virtually untouched, for a try by Thomas Ahern, signalling a larger roar of approval from the partisan crowd. This sharpened the Shannon spirit, but ended after conceding a penalty for offside, and Stynes, from a similar position to his previous kick, was bang on target once again with the huge kick.
A jersey pull by Shannon’s Ben Daly earned him a yellow card. This time Wesley kicked to touch finding a line out well inside the opposition 22, however it came to nothing on the scoreboard. Now into the final quarter and with the light fading rapidly Wesley put in a good spell of ball handling resulting in winger Richard Walsh finding himself in the clear. He got to within 10 metres of the goal line however a penalty relieved the pressure for Shannon. The Limerick men responded and for the final 7 minutes of the match threw everything at the visitors in their quest for, at least, a loser’s bonus point. With play well into the Wesley 22 Wesley conceded a penalty for playing the ball off the feet, and a yellow card for Rory Stynes. Shannon opted for touch and from the line out, and with the extra numbers, swung the ball wide for winger Ikem Ugwueru to score in the quarter. This time Grey kicked the conversion but with it came the final whistle, and another win for Old Wesley.
So next week it’s the big one when Old Wesley face Highfield in a top of the table clash. This first ever away AIL win against Shannon will certainly keep the morale levels up, but Wesley will take nothing for granted against a side with 7 straight wins in the competition. We can’t wait !
Old Wesley Team: Rory Stynes, Tommy O’Callaghan, David Poff, James O’Donovan, Ed O’Keeffe, Tom Kiersey, Josh Miller, Conor Maguire, Ben Burns, Harry Noonan, Iain McGann (capt), JJ O’Dea, Conor Barry, Ian Condell, Paul Derham (Capt). Replacements: Luke Thompson, James Burton, Mark Rowley, Craig Miller, Richard Walsh.
Old Wesley scorers: Paul Derham, try; Tommy O’Callaghan, try, Rory Stynes, con, 3 pens.