UCC 19 Shannon 3
THE 1981 Munster Senior Cup final was played on Easter Saturday, April 18, and it produced one of the great shocks in the competition’s history.
All-conquering Shannon travelled to Musgrave Park as the warmest of favourites, boasting a juggernaut pack of forwards taking on lighter and less experienced Students, who had a different approach.
While the Limerick side based their game around their forward eight, coaxed by scrum-half Sonny Kiely, UCC’s talents lay elsewhere, parading speedy and skilful backs with a lot of potential.
The big question in the build-up was whether the Student pack could generate enough ball in a classic contrast of styles.
Early signs were encouraging as the day was a scorcher, a shirt-sleeved 6,000 crowd basking in the heat, ideal conditions for College to generate a fast pace and move Shannon around the pitch.
Yet, there was a familiar start to the game as in the first scrum Shannon drove College back at a rate of knots.
But, the Cork side had a sensible plan. There was no point in trying to match their muscular opponents, so they set about nullifying Shannon’s threat with a simple, yet effective, tactic on their own put-in.
Scrum-half Alex O’Regan’s feed was touched by hooker Paul Derham straight to number eight Brian Spillane, who broke immediately.
And while the Shannon front-row had College in retreat mode, the ball was already in play as the Students launched another attack.
They also sensed early on it might not be Shannon’s afternoon as injuries forced off flankers Ger McMahon and Colm Tucker while Terry Fitzgerald struck an upright with a penalty.
And although College full-back Donal Daly had a try ruled out after clipping the corner-flag en route to touching down, the Cork side didn’t have to wait long for an important breakthrough just before the half-hour.
Ironically, the move came from a scrum with O’Regan heading off on a diagonal run before finding powerful centre Stephen O’Brien.
He brushed through a couple of tackles before finding the in-rushing Daly on his shoulder and the full-back duly scored with John Barry converting.
Four minutes later, College scored again. Daly’s Garryowen bounced favourably for Donal Lenihan, who passed to O’Regan, stopped short of the line.
The support was quick to appear and flanker Paul Collins dived in at the corner. Barry converted brilliantly from the touchline and College were on their way, 12-0 in front.
Shannon returned for the second-half determined to get back into the contest and forced College to defend frantically.
But, within 10 minutes of the resumption, the Students struck again for the killer third try, again text-book play.
Lenihan won a line-out 35 metres from the Shannon line. O’Regan sent a long pass to Barry, who slipped a tackle before passing to Declan Aherne.
He sidestepped an opponent and managed to off-load to Daly, who sent Jim Crotty in at the corner, 16 points clear.
It was College’s 18th and most recent cup triumph, following on from 1976, to occupy fourth in the roll-of-honour.
UCC: D Daly; O Crotty, S O’Brien, D Aherne, J Crotty; J Barry, A O’Regan; R Bevan, P Derham, F Dennehy, captain; D Lenihan, D Howard; P Collins, K Deering, B Spillane.
Subs: K Kennefick for Deering, P Madden for O’Brien.
SHANNON: T Fitzgerald; J Jennings, D O’Sullivan, S Moynihan, N Hogan; J Graham, S Kiely; G McLoughlin, N Glynn, T Healy; B Foley, M McLoughlin; C Tucker, N O’Donovan, G McMahon.
Subs: J Quigley for McMahon, N Ryan for Tucker.
Referee: D Healy (Munster)