Dundalk head for Mount Juliet seeking senior double

 

Aaron Grant

WHEN Dundalk won the AIG Barton Shield Leinster title at Mount Wolseley four weeks ago, a massive weight was lifted off the shoulders of Aaron Grant.

The 31-year-old had endured many years of heartache in the quest to be part of a successful senior team but the smile on his face when Dundalk sealed their win over Enniscorthy in the provincial final said it all.

“It’s been a long journey. I have been playing senior golf for the club since I was 15 so to finally be part of a Dundalk team that won a senior pennant was a great feeling. To go on and win an All-Ireland would be unbelievable.”

Having waited a long time to get his hands on one blue Leinster pennant, Grant now finds himself heading to Mount Juliet this weekend with his senior panel team-mates hoping to land a second when Dundalk and seven other clubs tee it up in Leinster Finals of the AIG Senior Cup.

The Senior Cup is the Holy Grail of inter-club golf club in Ireland and was first played for in 1900, five years before Dundalk Golf Club was founded. Having achieved the objective of landing a first ever senior club title last month, Grant and his team-mates are now keen to do the double.

“I believe you have got to take your chance when it comes along. We don’t know what is going to happen next year so this is a great opportunity for us and we will be doing our best to take it,” said Grant.

Dundalk qualified for the Leinster Finals after three impressive wins over Killeen Castle, Headfort and Co Louth in the regional qualifying round of the Senior Cup at Laytown & Bettystown last June.

The Dundalk squad spent the weekend in Mount Juliet preparing for the Leinster finals and according to Grant nothing is being left to chance.

“We have two great managers in Alan McCabe and John Conlon and they are brilliant. They don’t leave any stone unturned and their attention to detail is amazing. It’s great for us, as players, because it lets us concentrate on playing golf.”

One of the features of the Barton Shield Leinster Finals was the large crowd from Dundalk who made their way to Tullow and a big contingent is expected to travel to Mount Juliet on Saturday to support the team in their Leinster quarter-final against The Island.

“There is a great buzz around the club at the moment. Our success is down to a great juvenile programme that the likes of Paul Malone, Vincent Conlon, Jim Carragher and Liam Mernagh have looked after for years. Leslie Walker, our club professional, has also done a great job in bringing players through and his experience is invaluable.”

The match against The Island will tee off at 8am on Saturday morning and the format is five players playing singles matchplay off scratch. Dundalk managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon will select from an eight strong panel, every one of whom is showing good form at the moment.

“Since the Barton Shield win they have all been focused on securing one of the five places on the team to face The Island on Saturday and they have certainly given us plenty to think about. We’ll have a few tough calls to make but that’s the way we want it, everybody pushing hard for selection.” said Conlon.

If Dundalk get through, they will face the winners of the quarter-final between Dun Laoghaire and Tullamore at 2pm on Saturday. Old Conna, Portmarnock, Carton House and Enniscorthy are in the bottom half of the draw and the final is scheduled for Sunday morning at 10am.

Having battled alongside the likes of Peter Rogers, Declan Toal and Simon Waters for many years trying to make a breakthrough, Grant admits he is exciting by the potential of the current senior panel which includes the likes of newly crowned South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty, Boys internationals Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin, Brendan Lawlor who is currently ranked second on the European Disabled Golfers Association Tour, as well as Conor Curran, Neal MacKell and Andrew Keenan.

“We now have the strength in depth to know that whatever five are picked to play they are capable of delivering five points,” observed Grant. “We’ve never been in that position before and the young players who are coming through are getting better and better all time.”

Little wonder that Grant is walking around with a spring in step and finally realising a dream that was first ignited many years ago when he watched his neighbour Justin McArdle hitting golf balls from the Sean O’Mahony’s pitch on the Point Road and trying to land them in the centre circle of Clancy Park.

“Justin was a big inspiration to me and I am lucky that I always got wonderful encouragement and support from my parents, my wife, Maria, and my children while others, like Terry Sloane, helped me in the early days to get to play in the boys and youths championships and events like the Mullingar Scratch Cup,” recalled Grant who famously beat a certain Rory McIllroy in 2004 at the Connacht Boys Championship in Portumna.

Grant has been a man on a mission ever since then and this weekend is merely the next chapter in what he hopes will be a year to remember for Dundalk Golf Club.

Dundalk Senior Panel: Conor Curran, Aaron Grant, Andrew Keenan, Brendan Lawlor, Neal MacKell, Josh Mackin, Eoin Murphy, Caolan Rafferty. Managers: Alan McCabe and John Conlon.

ENDS

Last eight deliver for Lynch

Sunday’s Singles Stableford competition was won by 20 handicapper Paul Lynch who shot 41pts and just edged out Anthony McGuinness (20) on countback for the overall prize. Alan Uzell (18) also returned a score of 41pts but had to settle for the Category 2 prize.

For the second successive week, David Staunton (8) shot a score of 40pts but after ending up empty handed last week because of the hot scoring he did manage to make it into the prizes as he took Cateogry 1 by one point from the ever-improving Joseph Laverty. Dermot McKenna (2) took the Category 3 prize while Maurice Murphy (2) recorded the best gross score of 33pts and Fionn Duffy (25) claimed the Juvenile Prize.

Winner Lynch had two three point holes at the first and sixth and blank at the index one fourth on his way to 18pts for the opening nine and a one pointer seven at the par five 10th was definitely not a precursor to what was to unfold down the back nine as he covered the closing eight holes in 22pts.

A par four at the indext two 11th, where he had two shots, yield four points and ignited his round as he parred the next three holes to pick up a further nine points. Two bogeys over the next three holes brought him to 38 points and he then parred the par four 18th to finish on 41pts, with his superb back nine score delivering first prize on countback.

Sunday, August 19 – Singles Stableford – Overall: Paul Lynch (20) 41/23pts, Anthony Mc Guinness (20) 41pts. Category 1 (0-12): David Staunton (8) 40pts, Joseph Laverty (8) 39/20/13pts. Category 2 (13-18): Alan Uzell (18) 41pts, Pat Donaghy (13) 40pts. Category 3 (19+): Dermot Mc Kenna (20) 39pts, Graham Purcell (20) 38pts. Best Gross: Maurice J Murphy (2) 33/16pts. Juvenile: Fionn Duffy (25) 43pts. CSS: 72 (36pts)

Back nine proves the difference for O’Hanrahan

Harry O’Hanrahan produced a superb back nine to take Sunday’s Singles Stableford on countback from Senior Panel member Neal McKell who showed he is running into form as Mount Juliet looms on the horizon.

The three handicapper, who won the Junior Cup earlier this year,recorded the day’s best gross score of 39pts but his nett score of 42pts was only good enough for second overall as O’Hanrahan rolled back the years with a vintage display.

Now playing off 26, O’Hanrahan had three consecutive three pointers from the third hole as he went out in 18pts despite drawing a blank at the par three ninth.

Two more three point holes followed at the 10th and 11th and also at the 13th and 15th. But it was his par four at the long index four 16th that really made a difference to his card as the four points he picked up there, followed by two points at both the 17th and 18th saw him come home in 24 points and sign for a round of 42pts.

Alan Hurley (5) took Category 1 with 41pts, Fergal McKenna (18) claimed Category 2 while Larry Hanratty (24) took Category 3. Daniel Nordone (16) was the juvenile winner.

Sunday, August 12 – Singles Stableford – Overall: Harry O’Hanrahan (26) 42/24pts, Neal MacKell (3) 42pts. Category 1 (0-12): Alan Hurley (5) 41pts, Eddie Rocks (10) 40/22pts. Category 2 (13-18): Fergal McKenna (18) 40/20pts, Dessie Ward (13) 40pts. Category 3 (19+): Larry Hanratty (24) 41pts, Eddie McMullin (29) 40/22pts. Best Gross: Neal McKell (3) 39pts. Juvenile: Daniel Nordon (16) 37pts. CSS: 71 (37pts).

 

 

 

Renaghan pips Kelly to take Captain’s Prize

The winner of the 2018 Captain’s Prize at Dundalk Golf Club, Brian Og Renaghan, receives the Mick Spillane Cup from Captain Gerry Byrne

 

Brian Óg Renaghan was a popular winner of Gerry Byrne’s Captain Prize after he shot a two round total of 138 to win by one stroke from Eamon Kelly.

A six under par 66 in Saturday’s Qualifying Round left the six handicapper tied for the first round lead with Sunday qualifiers Gregory McCaughey (8) and Austin Carroll (15) and they were paired together in the last group as the top 30 from the qualifying rounds were seeded for the Final Round.

By the time they teed off on Sunday afternoon the final group were well aware that the experienced Michael Hamilton (16) had followed up an opening round of 74 with a 66 to set the target at 140, four under par.

Eamon Kelly (12), playing in the fifth group ahead of the joint leaders, was the first to better Hamilton’s score when he returned a 66 and signed for a two round total of 138 having posted a level par round of 72 in Saturday qualifying.

For a while it looked as though Kelly would hang on as the following groups failed to match or better his six under par total but Renaghan managed to hold things together to pip him and take the Mick Spillane Cup which is awarded each year to the winner of the Captain’s Prize.

Renaghan had produced a masterclass on Saturday in qualifying with a six under par 66 that included back to back birdies at the fifth and sixth and 14 pars as he covered the 18 holes in level par gross.

He continued in that vein by birdieing the first two holes of his second round to move to eight under for the tournament and he stretched that to 10 under with pars at the third and fourth where he had shots.

He dropped a shot at the fifth, which he bogeyed, and followed that with a triple bogey eight at the par five index 17 sixth where he racked up a triple bogey eight and fell back to six under with 12 holes to go. A par five at the index three seventh got him back to seven under par but he then dropped two shots at the par three ninth when he took a double bogey five.

That left him at five under par at turn as he turned one over for the day having the covering the opening nine in 40 gross and 37 nett.

He birdied the 10th and parred the index two 11th to go to seven under but then handed those shots back when he bogeyed the next two holes. However, a magnificent birdie three at the par four index four 16th brought him back to seven under and he parred the final two holes, where he didn’t have any shots, to return home in 37 gross and 34 nett for a gross score of 77 and a nett score of 71.

That left him on 137, seven under par, and it was enough to pip Kelly by one shot, Kelly took second place overall with Hamilton winning the Veteran’s Prize. Aaron Grant (+2) shot gross rounds of two under par 70 for a two round total of 140 and claimed the Gross Prize. Conor Curran (2), Paul O’Callaghan (11) and Trevor Giff (12) all finished on 140 nett and took the third, fourth and fifth overall prizes.

Brendan Duffy (12) on 141 took the Category One Prize with John McKeever (13) claiming the Category Two Prize on 143 while Gerry Campbell (26) took the Category Three Prize on 143.

A large crowd was present in the Clubhouse on Sunday evening for the presentation ceremony and Captain Gerry Byrne congratulated all the winners and thanked all those who played over the three days of competition as well as all those members of staff and club committees who had been involved in the organising and preparation of the event. There was a special welcome at the presentation for Gregory McCaughey as his achievement in finishing eighth at the four round World Deaf Golf Championships in Carton House recently and helping Ireland to second place in the senior team event was acknowledged.

Sunday, August 5 – Gerry Byrne’s Captain’s Prize (36 Holes) – Winner: 137 – Brian Óg Renaghan (6) 66, 71. Second: 138 – Eamon Kelly (12) 72, 66. Veteran: 140 – Michael Hamilton (16) 74, 66. Gross: 140 – Aaron Grant (+2) 70, 70. Third: 140 – Conor Curran (2) 73, 67. Fourth: 140 – Paul O’Callaghan (11) 71, 69. Fifth: 140 – Trevor Giff (12) 67, 73. Category 1 (<12): 141 – Brendan Duffy (12) 72, 69. Category 2 (13-18): 143 – John McKeever (13) 74, 69. Category 3 (19+) 143 – Gerry Campbell (26) 69, 74. Final Round (18 Holes) – Category 1 (0-11): Austin Shaw (9) 69, Kevin Barry (10) 70/32. Category 2 (12-16): Patrick McEntaggart (15) 70/33.5, David Smith (13) 70/34.5. Category 3 (17+): Sean Taaffe (20) 70, Nicholas McShane (18) 72/38. Saturday Qualifier (August 4) – Overall: Stephen Lynch (7) 70. Category 1 (0-12) David Lynch (12) 73/33. Category 2 (13-18): Alan Cole (13) 71/31.5. Category 3 (19-28): Joe Flanagan (21) 72. Sunday Qualifier (July 29): Overall; Gregory McCaughey (8) 66/33. Category 1 (0-12): Andrew Brodigan (12) 68, Barry Grennan (11) 69/32.5. Category 2 (13-18): August Carroll (15) 66, John Paul Casey (16) 67. Category 3 (19-28): Paul Lynch (22) 67, Benny O’Shaughnessy (19) 69/31.5. Qualifying Rounds – Junior: Dillon Green (5) 72, Andrew Keenan (3) 73, Juvenile: James Reilly (19) 71. CSS: Sunday Qualifier 72, Saturday Qualifier 73, Final Round 72.

 

 

Rafferty breaks into World’s top 100

Dundalk Golf Club’s Caolan Rafferty has broken into the top 100 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings following his victory at the South of Ireland Championship in Lahinch last week.

The 25-year-old jumped 84 places to 78 and he is now Ireland’s second highest ranked player behind Robin Dawson, who is ranked ninth in the world.

Rafferty also made a major move on the GUI’s Bridgestone Order of Merit after picking up 250 points for winning in Lahinch and is now fourth overall behind Dawson, Alex Gleeson and Mark Power.

With Power and Dawson not playing in this week’s Irish Close at The European Club there a huge opportunity for Rafferty to leapfrog over them in what is the final counting event of the series with 325 points on offer for the winner.

Two level par round of 71 on Saturday and Sunday saw Rafferty qualify in third place for the matchplay stages which commence on Monday.

The Irish team for the Eisenhower Trophy, which is the World Cup of amateur golf, will be announced after the Close and Rafferty is very much in contention for a place with the event scheduled to take place at Carton House in September.

 

Rafferty wins South of Ireland

CAOLAN RAFFERTY won his first golfing major today when he captured the South of Ireland Championship at Lahinch.

The 25-year-old produced a magnificent birdie on the 20th hole to beat fellow Ireland international Rowan Lester of Hermitage and become only the second Dundalk player to win one of Irish amateur golf’s major championships, bridging a 69 year gap to Mick Ferguson’s victory in the East of Ireland in 1949.

Having found a fairway bunker off the tee he could only chip out onto the fairway and faced a 209 yard shot into the wind for his third shot with his opponent in prime position to win the hole. He hit a four iron to 15 feet and when Lester missed his birdie putt from 20ft, Rafferty stepped up and rolled in the winning putt.

“That was the best four iron I ever it,” he recalled. “I got a great line on it and I really fancied the putt. It was a nice feeling when it went in because I have been waiting a long time to win a championship.”

His father Ciaran and uncle David, who have been major influences on his golfing career since he held his first club, watched with pride as he accepted the famous trophy.

“It was great that they were there along with my girlfriend Hayley and some of the members from Dundalk because they’ve been there every step of the way and it was nice to see how proud they were,” said Rafferty afterwards who was also full of praise for clubmate Eoin Murphy, his caddy on the final day.

“It hasn’t really sunk in yet but it is a great feeling. I’ve been trying to win one of these for some time and they are not easy to win so I am going to enjoy the moment.”

Rafferty headed south to Co Clare days after helping Dundalk to its first ever senior pennant and admitted that being in the team environment with his senor panel clubmates for a few days at the Barton Shield in Mount Wolseley was just the tonic he needed.

“Things hadn’t been going to well for me before then but I really enjoyed being around all the lads on the senior panel and winning something with the club. I went to Lahinch feeling very relaxed and back enjoying my golf.”

Rafferty shot a six under par 66 in the first round of qualifying last Wednesday in a round that included one eagle and seven birdies. He shot 73 in the second qualifying round on Thursday but it didn’t count after the second round was abandoned because of the heavy rain that made the course unplayable.

On Friday morning he was the last of the 64 qualifiers for the matchplay stage to tee it up and opened up with a 6&4 win over Niall Hearns of Mountrath before beating Eanna Griffin of Waterford 4&3 in Round 2.

On Saturday in the last 16 he met Ross Dutton of Tandragee and beat him 2&1 which was same scoreline by which he saw off the challenge of Rosslare’s Paul Murphy in the quarter-final.

That earned him a Sunday morning semi-final against Mark Power from Kilkenny who is also a member of Lahinch and has been Irish Boys champion for the past two years.

Rafferty won the second hole and never looked back after that. He was four up after five holes and although Power hit back to win the next two holes, Rafferty responded by winning eight and nine. Power came back at him again, winning 11, but Rafferty won 13 and 14 to close out the match, winning 5&4.

Lester, who was runner-up in the 2016 South, started as favourite and quickly opened up a two hole lead by winning the second and fifth as Rafferty found himself trailing in a match for the first time all week.“I didn’t panic. I knew I just had to be patient and keep plugging away because there was still a long way to go,” said Rafferty who pulled a hole back by winning the eighth and got it back to all square when he pitched to five feet and made birdie after Lester had missed from 20ft.

He then went one ahead by winning the 13th but lost the 15th to a par and then went one behind with one to play when he conceded 17 after missing a putt for a five.

“Standing on the 18th tee I was thinking I could win 18 and force it down 19 and I hit two great shots, the drive and then a three wood into the heart of the green. I had about 280 to the flag but the three wood ran up the green to 30 feet.”

Lester could only lay-up but hit a great wedge into five feet from 100 yards and when Rafferty burned the hole with his eagle putt, Lester had a birdie putt for the half and the championship.

“I actually had my hat off ready to congratulate him but he missed so I put the hat back on and headed for the 19th tee saying to myself ‘he has given me a chance so let’s get the job done’.”

On the 19th Rafferty was 12 feet from the pin and when Lester’s putt from 15 feet came up short by two feet he thought he had his chance but could only watch in disbelief as his putt caught the hole but didn’t drop.

Then came the 20th and that dramatic passage of play which eventually saw Rafferty get the job done and great crowned the champion of the South.

“I hit a poor drive and ended up in a bunker while he was down the left but shorter than me. He hit his approach wide and short right and left himself with a tricky pitch so I was determined to get no worse than a five and make him get birdie to win it.

“I chipped out of the bunker, left myself with 209 to the flag, and hit the best four iron ever to 15 feet. He left his pitch 20 feet short and hit his putt six feet past. I knew this was my chance and I rolled it in the front door.”

Rafferty joins an impressive list of previous winners of the South which has been played since 1895 on the famous Lahinch links and joins the likes of JB Carr, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley and Graeme McDowell on the competition’s roll of honour.

Rafferty returned home to a hero’s welcome on Sunday night at Dundalk Golf Club and Club Captain Gerry Byrne led the congratulations. He said: “On behalf of all the members of Dundalk Golf Club I want to congratulate Caolan on this magnificent achievement. He is the first Dundalk member to win the South of Ireland Championship and only the second to win any of Irish golf’s major amateur championships. He has worked extremely hard over the years and has finally earned his reward. He is also a tremendous role model for all the young players in the club and this win shows them what is possible.”

Ward takes Gerry Murray’s President’s Prize

Declan Ward produced one of the best rounds of the years over the blue course to win Gerry Murray’s President’s Prize on Sunday in ideal conditions.

The 19 handicapper shot a seven under par 65 to take this keenly contested major by two shots from Conor Marron (25) with Bernard White (16) a shot further back on 68. They were the only three players out of a superb field of 212 to shoot in the sixties.

Ward’s round included a birdie at the par five index three seventh after he left himself with an easy putt following a superbly executed approach shot over the water from 170 yards.

However, he handed back the shots gained on seven at the next hole when he recorded a triple bogey seven after finding himself in bunkers on either side of the green.

A par at the ninth saw him turn in two under net and a strong finish which saw him par four of the final six holes got him to seven under and he signed for what proved to be an unbeatable 65.

Marron covered the front nine in one under par and did better on the back nine as he recorded a four under par net total of 32 on his way to five under par 67.

Bernard White, who shot a 68 for the third best score of the day, won the Veterans Prize with Maurice Murphy (3) taking the gross prize after shooting a 73. Shaun Ward (11), Aidan Gaughran (13) and Martin McCaughey (21) took the category prizes.

Clem Walshe’s (5) 71 in the President’s Prize has propelled him to the top of the Golfer of the Year table after six rounds. His four best cards have given him a total of 287 which is four ahead of Danny Miele (11) with Neil Mulooly (6) two shots further back in third on 293.

Sunday, July 22 – Gerry Murray’s President’s Prize – Overall – Declan Ward (19) 65, Conor Marron (25) 67. Gross: Maurice Murphy (3) 73. Veteran: Bernard White (16) 68. Category 1(0-12): Shaun Ward (11) 70/32.5, Christy Ward (8) 70. Category 2 (13-17): Aidan Gaughran (13) 70/33.5, Peter O Brien (15) 70. Category 3 (18+): Martin McCaughey (21) 72, Michael Ryan (21) 73/32.5. CSS: 73.

Golfer of the Year (best four cards after six rounds): 287 – Clem Walshe; 291 – Danny Miele; 293 – Neil Mullooly; 294 – Ciaran Johnson, Peter Rogers; 295 – Christy Ward, Brendan Keane, Neal MacKell; 296 – Aiden Gaughran, David Brennan.

 

 

 

 

CHAMPIONS! Dundalk claims first senior title

DUNDALK Golf Club made an historic breakthrough at the weekend by winning the Leinster Final of the AIG Barton Shield and claiming the club’s first ever senior title.

They did it in style with impressive victories over Corrstown, Elm Park and Enniscorthy in the provincial finals which were held at Mount Wolseley Golf Club in Tullow, Co Carlow, on Friday and Saturday.

The Barton Shield is one of the two senior trophies on offer for Irish golf clubs each and features the top amateur players in the country. It is played off scratch in a foursomes matchplay format with two pairings representing each club and the aggregate score from each match deciding the match.

For joint managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon it was the culmination of three years’ work having taken over responsibility for the club’s senior panel in 2016.

“We reached the Leinster quarter-finals the first year and then got the semi-finals last year and lost to the eventual winners,” said Conlon. “We set ourselves a target of going one better this year and once we got to the final we were determined to take the opportunity because we knew we had no divine right to think we will ever get a second chance.”

Dundalk headed to Tullow with an eight man panel made up of the experienced Aaron Grant, Irish international Caolan Rafferty, Boys Internationals Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin and low single figure players Conor Curran, Brendan Lawlor, Andrew Keenan and Neal MacKell.

“While only four played, this was very much a group effort and everybody in the panel bought into what we were trying to do which was winning a Leinster pennant,” said McCabe. “The four who didn’t play all had important supporting roles over the weekend while Conor Curran played a major part in ensuring we got through our regional qualifying tournament back in May when Caolan Rafferty was away on international duty. He typified the spirit we have in this group.”

Dundalk qualified for the Leinster Finals by finishing second in qualifying at Balcarrick and then beating Greenore and Royal Dublin in the matchplay rounds to book one of the eight places on offer.

Dundalk were drawn in the top bracket against Corrstown while Elm Park faced Kilkenny, Portmarnock met Dun Laoghaire and Enniscorthy played Tullamore.

McCabe and Conlon paired Aaron Grant and teenager Josh Mackin in the top match while Caolan Rafferty partnered Eoin Murphy in the bottom match for the quarter-final against Corrstown on Friday morning.

Dundalk quickly took control of the tie against the Dublin club and at no stage was either pairing behind in their respective matches.

In the bottom match, Rafferty and Murphy won the second but lost the sixth to go back to all square. They then won the next two holes and turned for home two up. After halving the 10th in birdies, the Dundalk pair then won the next four holes with birdies to be six up when they were called in after 14 holes.

In the top match, Grant and Mackin also won the second hole and Grant chipped in from off the ninth green for a birdie two to give the duo a three hole lead at the turn. They lost the 11th but won 14 to be three up with four to play and, although they lost the 15th, they halved the 16th to ensure Dundalk’s victory.

Elm Park defeated Kilkenny in their quarter-final match and stood between Dundalk and a place in the final. Team managers McCabe and Conlon kept faith with the morning pairings and they justified their selection with a magnificent five hole victory over the biggest golf club in Ireland.

However, they were made to fight extremely hard for their win with both pairings finding themselves trailing at different stages and having to dig deep to haul themselves back into their respective matches.

In the top match, Grant and Mackin faced an Elm Park pairing that included Irish Boys International Charlie Denvir who tried to drive the green on fourth but found a greenside bunker from which Elm Park failed to get up and down. Aaron Grant then rolled in a 15ft birdie putt to put Dundalk in front.

Elm Park won the next to get it back to level and then went ahead on the par three sixth after Denvir’s tee shot set up a winning birdie but it was back to all square a hole later.

Dundak turned one hole up after winning the ninth with a par but a great chip from Denvir set up a winning birdie for Elm Park on the 10th and he hit another great chip on the 11th to set up another win as the Dubliners went ahead with seven holes to play.

After halving 12, thanks to another great putt from Grant, Dundalk got it back to all square and the match turned in Dundalk’s favour in dramatic fashion on the 15th hole. Mackin’s tee shot found the 10th fairway from where Grant played a superb recovery shot to be pin high in a greenside bunker where he was joined by Elm Park after Denvir pulled his wedge shot from the middle of the fairway. Dundalk made five after Grant’s putt was conceded and Elm Park missed their putt to give Grant and Mackin a one shot lead they held until they were called in on their way to the 18th tee.

Behind them, Rafferty and Murphy had won by four holes after showing great character to bounce back after losing the opening two holes.

They won the next two to get back to all square and then took control of the match when they birdied the sevenths and parred the eighth to open up a two hole lead.

They went three up after winning the 10th and although they lost the 12th to a birdie four they birdied 14 and 15 to go five up and a half on 16 was enough to seal Dundalk’s place in the Leinster final for the first time.

Enniscorthy shocked pre-tournament favourites Dun Laoghaire, winning the other semi-final by three holes, and they teed it up alongside Dundalk on Saturday morning.

Dundalk kept faith with the quartet that got them to the final and in the top match Grant and Mackin opened up an early lead when their opponents three-putted the opening hole.

They held that lead to the fifth, when a lost ball off the tee opened the door for Enniscorthy to draw level. Two great bunker shots by Mackin on the next two holes prevented Enniscorthy from taking the lead and the youngster then played a superb approach into the eight to set up a 15ft birdie putt from Grant to win the hole.

They went two up after winning the 10th despite finding the trees down the left from the tee from where Mackin could only pitch the ball back onto the fairway. Enniscorthy, sensing an opportunity, decided to lay up in front of the stream protecting the narrow green but Grant called their bluff by producing the shot of the week, a magnificent two iron into the wind from 238 yards which he left six feet from a back pin. After Enniscorthy made five, Mackin showed nerves of steel to sink the birdie putt to win the hole in four.

On the next hole Mackin rolled in a par putt to move Dundalk three up and although they lost the 14th to a remarkable birdie they halved the next two holes and were two up playing the 16th when they were called in.

Behind them Rafferty and Murphy quickly got holes on the board by winning the opening two holes and went three up with a win on the fourth. A superb tee-shot from Murphy set up a six foot birdie putt and a win from Rafferty on the sixth and although they lost the ninth, they turned three up.

Their lead was reduced to two after they lost the par three 11th to a birdie but they responded to that set back in magnificent style by eagling the par five 12th. A birdie at the 14th moved them back to four up and when Enniscorthy failed to match their birdie at the 15th, they moved to five up.

That left Dundalk’s aggregate score at seven holes ahead with six to play and triggered joyous scenes as the large crowd of club and family members who had travelled south to support the team over the two days celebrated with the players, caddies and managers.

“The support was fantastic,” said McCabe. “It was definitely a big help to us and we greatly appreciate the efforts people made to get to Mount Wolseley. Hopefully, they will be able to travel in big numbers to Thurles in October for the All-Ireland Finals.”

Before that, Dundalk have a chance to complete a Leinster double as they have also qualified for the provincial finals in the AIG Senior Cup, the first time in the club’s history that they have qualified for both elite Leinster finals in the same year.

They will play The Island in the quarter-final at Mount Juliet on August 25 with the semi-final scheduled for that afternoon and the final the following day.

“All the focus for the next five weeks is going to be on Mount Juliet,” said McCabe. “It’s a different type of format but we will prepare properly for it and there is no doubt that winning the Barton Shield pennant will give all the panel members great confidence heading to Mount Juliet.”

Dundalk Captain Gerry Byrne said had been a great weekend for the club. “It is a great feeling to see the club win its first senior pennant and it was very pleasing to see them win it playing some fantastic golf. Great credit must go to the players, caddies and managers as well as the magnificent supporters who really got behind the team all weekend. Most of our senior panel have come through our excellent juvenile programme and the likes of Paul Malone, Vincent Conlon, Jim Carraher, Liam Mernagh and our club professional Leslie Walker have now seen a lot of their hard work over the years come to fruition at the top end of Irish club golf.”

BARTON SHIELD LEINSTER FINALS RESULTS

Quarter Finals

Dundalk bt Corrstown by 8 Holes.

Elm Park bt Kilkenny by 3 Holes

Enniscorthy bt Tullamore by 4 Holes

Dun Laoghaire bt Portmarnock by 8 Holes.

 

Semi Finals

Dundalk bt Elm Park by 5 Holes

Enniscorthy bt Dun Laoghaire by 3 Holes

 

Final

Dundalk bt Enniscorthy by 7 Holes