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Jake Flannery scores 20 points as Shannon secure promotion to AIL Division 1A

It was a drama-filled day of action in the AIL promotion and relegation playoffs.

Shannon's Jake Flannery celebrates scoring a try with teammates Alan Flannery, Josh Costello and Killian Dineen.
Shannon's Jake Flannery celebrates scoring a try with teammates Alan Flannery, Josh Costello and Killian Dineen.
Image: Tom Maher/INPHO

ULSTER-BOUND OUT-HALF Jake Flannery finished with 20 points as Shannon overcame Naas 30-15 in Coonagh to earn promotion to Division 1A of the Energia All-Ireland League.

Third-place finishers in the table, Pat O’Connor’s Shannon side excelled in the playoffs, winning at Highfield last week before a strong first-half performance laid the foundations against a gallant Naas.

Bulldozing young lock David Maher piled over for a 12th-minute try, which Flannery converted. The latter missed a penalty but was back on target to punish a no-arms tackle on Kelvin Brown.

The 22-year-old Flannery, whose younger brother Alan lined out at inside centre, increased his influence on the promotion final with a well-taken intercept try three minutes before half-time.

Naas captain Peter Osborne slotted over a late penalty, with their only other first half opportunity seeing Bryan Croke chip through but Craig Ronaldson was ruled offside.

Replacement Fionn Higgins drew the visitors closer with a blockdown try in the 49th minute, but two well-struck penalties from Flannery made it 23-8 early in the final quarter.

Recent Ireland U19 debutant Josh Costello claimed Shannon’s third try, effectively settling the issue with nine minutes remaining. Naas centre Gary Kavanagh replied with a chip-and-chase effort late on.

jack-odonnell-leads-the-celebrations-after-the-game Shannon's Jack O'Donnell leads the celebrations. Source: Tom Maher/INPHO

Meanwhile, Ballynahinch maintained an Ulster presence in the top flight after winning their relegation playoff second leg 31-17. UCC could not avoid the drop, losing 52-34 on aggregate.

The Cork students were only four points behind from the first leg and a very positive first half performance at Ballymacarn Park had them level-pegging with ‘Hinch at 17-all.

Ballynahinch sought to put the tie to bed early, scoring after just six minutes. Scrum-half Conor McAuley followed up on a surging run by Bradley Luney to touch down at the second attempt.

Ulster Academy youngster Conor Rankin converted and then crossed on the quarter hour mark. Ireland Sevens international Cormac Izuchukwu got a chance to stretch his legs, Aaron Cairns then sidestepped and offloaded for Rankin to score and make it 12-0 on the day.

There was no panic from UCC who coolly worked their way back into contention. Tadgh McCarthy’s quick tap led to Andrew O’Mahony grabbing a try back, and lock Mark Bissessar added a second seven-pointer from a well-directed maul.

‘Hinch hit back with a Josh Hanlon try – his third in as many games – after the initial incision from centre George Pringle. UCC squeezed in a late penalty, fired over by Daniel Squires, to make it all square in this return fixture.

However, the Ballynahinch forwards got on top during the second period, forcing a series of scrum penalties and causing regular problems for the UCC lineout.

Talented full-back Rankin collected 16 points, with his second try on the hour mark owing much to Cairns’ gobbling up of a cross-field kick.

Greg Hutley, one of ‘Hinch’s most consistent performers this season, charged through midfield to add a late gloss with a 79th-minute converted score.

Banbridge retained their Division 1B status by beating Navan 24-0 at Rifle Park. Bann had too much in the tank, with Conor Field’s eighth try of the campaign adding to earlier scores from Robin Sinton and captain Michael Cromie.

Queen’s University were just a missed conversion away from playing in Division 1B for the first time in their illustrious history.

Instead, Buccaneers pulled off a superb 18-17 playoff final victory at Dub Lane, their efforts at the breakdown preventing Queen’s from getting into their usual attacking flow.

buccaneers-players-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Buccaneers players celebrate at the final whistle. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The table-topping Belfast students had put 12 tries and 82 points on Ballymena last week, but Buccs came primed with a stifling game-plan and their own attack and well-drilled maul did some damage.

Two Michael Hanley penalties had the Pirates leading 6-5 at half-time, with Queen’s winger Graham Curtis squeezing over in the left corner for the opening try. The hosts were dominating possession but not getting the points to show for it.

Buccs scrambled well to deal with line breaks from Curtis, Ben Heath and Michael Orr, before a possible turning point came when Queen’s prop George Saunderson barged over to make it 12-6.

The hosts’ defence could not hold out from a Buccs onslaught, though, as the midlanders retook the lead with a penalty try on the back of a Scott Wilson yellow card. Lock Danny Qualter soon drove over from close range.

In a typically tense and frenetic finish, Queen’s persistence was rewarded with a last-minute try out wide from lock Charlie Irvine. There was one cruel final twist, as young replacement James Humphreys’ conversion came back off the post and the final whistle saw battling Buccs erupt in celebration.

Blackrock College pulled off an incredible comeback, flooring Greystones to win 25-23 and gain promotion back to Division 2A. Centre Matthew Dwan’s try in the final play saw the visitors prevail in thrilling fashion at Dr Hickey Park.

blackrock-college-celebrate-winning-the-game Blackrock College celebrate winning the game. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Greystones looked well on course when leading 17-3, their talismanic captain captain Killian Marmion converting tries from Conor McAleer and Andrew Lynch as well as landing a 28th-minute penalty.

Nonetheless, a Stephen McLoughlin try got Blackrock back within reach, and they punished a Michael Douglas sin-binning with a converted effort from playmaker Peter Quirke who finished with 15 points.

Marmion took his own tally to 13 points with a 72nd-minute penalty, giving ‘Stones a hard-earned 23-20 advantage, but ‘Rock stretched the home defence enough for Dwan to score on the standside right at the death.

Enniscorthy, who came up from the junior ranks in 2019, were the only table-topping side to finish as playoff champions. They won the Division 2C promotion decider, running out 41-14 winners over Skerries at Alcast Park.

davie-murphy-timmy-morrissey-and-james-doyle-and-celebrate-after-the-game Enniscorthy’s Davie Murphy, Timmy Morrissey and James Doyle and celebrate after the game. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

40-year-old out-half Ivan Poole tagged a penalty onto Dominik Morycki’s early try as ‘Scorthy led 8-6 at the interval. Paul O’Loghlen’s goal-kicking and a timely try from captain Kevin McGrath kept Skerries’ hopes alive at 22-14 down.

But Ben Manion’s charges, roared on by the vocal home support, found another gear to reel off closing tries from Morycki, David O’Dwyer (from a Nick Doyle pass) and Tom Ryan. Davie Murphy and Daniel Pim, with a breakaway effort, also dotted down during the second half.

Elsewhere, Nenagh Ormond retained their Division 2A status with a 26-13 home victory over Rainey Old Boys, while 14-man Clonmel, who had replacement Tony Cantwell sent off, held on for a 41-34 aggregate win at a very wet Judge’s Road which relegated City of Derry to junior rugby.

Looking to overturn a 16-point first leg deficit, Derry led 10-0 at half-time thanks mainly to a penalty try. Cantwell saw red for a head-high challenge on Derry captain Cathal Cregan.

So often the inspiration for his team, Clonmel centre Luke Hogan blocked down a Ross McLaughlin kick and gathered the loose ball to touch down, halving the hosts’ lead.

A penalty from Dylan Cadogan cut the gap to 10-8 on the day, and near constant pressure from Derry yielded a 79th-minute try on the right wing for replacement Joel Smyth. Alex McDonnell converted but time was up on Derry’s spirited fightback.

Galwegians lost 15-3 at Ballina but held onto their Division 2B place thanks to a 37-34 aggregate victory. Wingers Ian West and Cian Quinn notched first half tries for the Moy men, but a lone Harry West penalty was all they could muster during a rain-hit second half.

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ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE PLAYOFF FINALS

Div 1A relegation playoff second leg:

Ballynahinch 31 (21) v UCC 17 (17), (Ballynahinch won 52-34 on aggregate)

Div 1B promotion playoff final:

Shannon 30 Naas 15

Div 1B relegation playoff second leg:

Banbridge 24 (25) Navan 0 (17), (Banbridge won 49-17 on aggregate)

Div 2A promotion playoff final:

Queen’s University 17 Buccaneers 18

Div 2A relegation playoff second leg:

Nenagh Ormond 26 (17) v Rainey Old Boys 13 (17), (Nenagh Ormond won 43-30 on aggregate)

Div 2B promotion playoff final:

Greystones 23 Blackrock College 25

Div 2B relegation playoff second leg:

Ballina 15 (19) v Galwegians 3 (34), (Galwegians won 37-34 on aggregate)

Div 2C promotion playoff final:

Enniscorthy 41 Skerries 14

Div 2C relegation playoff second leg:

City of Derry 17 (17) v Clonmel 8 (33), (Clonmel won 41-34 on aggregate) 

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