Trip to Tipp in search of Barton Shield glory

Dundalk Golf Club is making its own Trip to Tipp this week as its senior panel heads to Thurles for the All-Ireland Finals of the Barton Shield.

Having won the club’s first ever senior title in July when they captured the Barton Shield Leinster pennant, the senior panel are now looking to make history again by landing a first ever national pennant at senior level.

Dundalk’s only previous national men’s golf title was in 2004 when they won the Jimmy Bruen Shield and there is a strong desire around the Blackrock links to add another.

But it’s not going to be easy as Dundalk will face Munster champions Kinsale in their semi-final on Thursday morning and if they come through that assignment they will meet either Clandeboye or Athenry in Friday’s final.

The Munster finals were held in Thurles a few weeks ago so Kinsale will feel very much at home when they tee it up on Thursday. The Cork men are also guaranteed big support as they have also qualified for the national finals of the Jimmy Bruen Shield which are also being played in Thurles this week.

Like Dundalk, Kinsale won their first provincial Barton Shield pennant this year when they beat Munster Senior Cup winners Dungarvan in the provincial semi-final and then defeated Castletroy in the final.

They did it without their top player, Irish international John Murphy, a plus five handicap player who is on a golf scholarship in America. Murphy has had a great year, winning the St Andrews Trophy and making Ireland’s Eisenhower Trophy team so it remains to be seen if Kinsale will stick with the four men who got them to this stage – Gary Ward, Keith Fitzpatrick, Cathal Butler and Eric Rumley – or bring Murphy home to strengthen their challenge.

However, Alan McCabe, who manages the Dundalk team along with John Conlon, says the fact that Kinsale won the Munster title without Murphy shows the strength of their panel and he added that Dundalk will face a formidable challenge no matter who they face.

“They have an immediate advantage from the Munster finals being played in Thurles and having two teams qualified for this week means they will have no shortage of support. Winning a Munster senior title is no mean feat so they have to be respected. All we can do is concentrate on ourselves and ensure that we are ready to go on Thursday morning. We are well aware that we may never get this opportunity again to win a national title. This is a unique chance for the boys to bring a national pennant back to Dundalk and we intend to give it our best shot,” said McCabe.

Dundalk were in Thurles last weekend practicing and will head south on Tuesday to begin final preparations on a track that is not too dissimilar to their own course according to McCabe.

“It is similar to our own in that it is a traditional parkland course and a members club. The holes are tree-lined and there are some tricky greens. It is a great venue and the members and staff were lovely.”

The Barton Shield is a foursomes competition with each club fielding two pairings and the overall match is decided by the aggregate score of the two matches.

Dundalk will select their four players for Thursday’s semi-final from an eight strong panel that includes Irish international and South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty as well Aaron Grant, Eoin Murphy, Josh Mackin, Brendan Lawlor, Neal MacKell, Andrew Keenan and Conor Curran. All have been playing well this year and McCabe admits they face some tough decisions.

“There is huge competition among the eight players and they have pushed each other very hard all year. They have a great spirit and the four who don’t play will be fully behind those who are playing. They are proud to be not only representing the club but also Dundalk, Louth and Leinster.”

 

Schedule

AIG All-Ireland Barton Shield at Thurles Golf Club

Thursday, October 4

Semi-Finals: Dundalk v Kinsale 08:20, Clandeboye v Athenry 08:40

Friday, October 5

Final: 10:15