AIL playoff round-up: Josh Costello’s double keeps Shannon in top flight after win over Highfield

Skerries clinch promotion to Division 2B; UL Bohs hold place in 2A; Blackrock College back in 1B for first time since 2016

Shannon’s Joshua Costello goes in to score a try during the Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A promotion/relegation playoff final at Thomond Park. Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

Shannon held Highfield try-less and scored four of their own as an impressive second-half performance saw them win 32-12 to retain their Division 1A status.

Highfield were hoping to make history on Thomond Park’s back pitch, eyeing up promotion to the Energia All-Ireland League’s top flight with Miah Cronin, Cian Bohane and Daragh Fitzgerald leading the charge.

But despite four James Taylor penalties during the opening 40 minutes, the Corkmen were outplayed during the remainder of the game as two tries from lively winger Josh Costello and one from replacement Luke Rigney sealed a convincing playoff victory for the hosts.

Coupled with outhalf Mike Cooke’s 17-point haul, that quick-fire trio of second-half scores was the difference for Stephen Keogh’s side. Costello produced two top-class finishes, one of them from his own kick through from halfway.

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Praising the former Ireland Under-19 winger afterwards, Shannon captain Ronan Coffey said: “It was great to see Josh Costello doing what he does best. He’s had a tough season with injuries, although we saw against Lansdowne before Christmas he had those couple of moments of magic to win us the game there.

“You can talk about finishing in the top half of the table but staying up was really our goal in our first season back in 1A.

“We’ve had cup-winning teams at Under-18 and Under-20 level this year as well, so we should have a good crop coming through as well.”

Meanwhile, talented young fullback Ronan Mulcahy scored 20 points as Skerries clinched promotion to Division 2B with a 30-15 playoff final victory over Bruff.

Tom O’Dwyer’s intercept try kept the Limerick men in the hunt at 20-10 down at half-time at Holmpatrick, his breakaway score coming in response to converted efforts from Mulcahy and Paul O’Loghlen.

It was an eight-point game after Bruff’s Shane Duggan had cancelled out a Mulcahy penalty, but the Goats struck for the clinching try early in the final quarter when number eight Peter O’Neill crossed from close range.

Harry Byrne’s 79th-minute penalty completed a stirring comeback from UL Bohemians who beat Dungannon 20-16 at Annacotty to hold on to their Division 2A place.

Dungannon impressively built a 16-3 interval lead, with fullback Ben McCaughey kicking three penalties and converting number eight James McMahon’s maul try midway through.

However, the Red Robins turned the screw for the remainder, Alan Kiely sniping over for their opening try before hooker Kieran O’Shea used a 50th-minute lineout drive to edge them in front.

Outhalf Byrne converted both tries to make it 17-16, and Dungannon, who battled on despite two yellow cards, watched Byrne split the posts again late on. They also had a close-in lineout stolen right at the death.

James Blaney’s Blackrock College celebrated back-to-back promotions, overcoming a valiant MU Barnhall side 29-21 at Stradbrook. Their reward for a fine four-try performance is a return to Division 1B for the first time since 2016.