Dundalk lose in Barton Shield All-Ireland semi-final

Dundalk Golf Club’s latest bid to win its first national senior title ended in disappointment last Friday morning when they were beaten by Co Sligo Golf Club in the semi-finals of the AIG Barton Shield in Westport.

Having lost in last year’s All-Ireland Final to Athenry, Dundalk travelled to the Co Mayo venue hoping to go one better after winning back to back Leinster titles in July when they beat The Island in the provincial decider at Royal Tara.

They went into the last four as second favourites behind Warrenpoint, who were bidding for their third Barton Shield title in four years, but, like Dundalk, they too fell at the semi-final stage.

Dundalk managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon went with the same pairings that had delivered both provincial titles with Aaron Grant and Josh Mackin up against Ruairi O’Connor and Thomas Finnegan in the top match while Caolan Rafferty and Eoin Murphy faced brothers TJ and Daniel Ford in the other.

Right from the beginning it was obvious that Dundalk were in trouble as they found themselves behind in both matches and never managed to get their noses in front in either of them after that.

After six holes Dundalk were three down in the top match and one down in the bottom match and by the turn Grant and Mackin were four down while Rafferty and Murphy were still one behind.

That meant Dundalk were five holes behind with 18 to play and while Rafferty and Murphy managed to get it back to all square by the 12th, up ahead of them it was looking ominous as Grant and Mackin were five down with six to play in their match.

It was all over a few holes later as Dundalk ran out of holes with Grant and Mackin seven down with two play while Rafferty and Murphy were all square with three to play.

“It was disappointing not to perform the way we know we can but these things happen in sport and all we can do is pick ourselves up and get ready to have another shot at it next year,” said joint manager John Conlon.

“We still managed to retain our Leinster title this year which is a fair achievement but the lads really wanted to bring home a green one and they are gutted they didn’t do that especially for the large group of supporters who travelled to Mayo for the All-Ireland Finals.”

In the final on Friday afternoon it was Co Sligo’s turn to be on the end of a seven hole defeat as they lost to Limerick.

Walker Cup stars heading for Dundalk Scratch Cup

Walker Cup and Ireland stars Caolan Rafferty, James Sugrue and Conor Purcell will switch from being teammates to rivals this Sunday (September 15) when they tee it up at the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup at Dundalk Golf Club.
Last weekend the trio were part of the Great Britain & Ireland team in the Walker Cup at Hoylake before travelling to Lahinch to represent Ireland in the Home Internationals.
The presence of three players from the World’s top 60 is sure to attract big crowds to Dundalk for the 36 hole tournament which will have shotgun starts at 9am for Round 1 and 2pm for Round 2.
Rafferty is the defending champion and is bidding to win a third title in four years while Sugrue from Mallow is the Amateur champion and Portmarnock’s Purcell is the Australian Amateur champion.
The three Walker Cup players will start as favourites but there are plenty of players in the star studded field that will fancy their chances of lifting the famous trophy. Previous champions include the likes of three-time major winner Padraig Harrington while another former Walker Cup players, David Sheahan, was the first winner in 1963.
Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell won the event in 2017 while Co Louth’s Gerard Dunne set a new course record in last year’s second round and both will be expected to feature strongly as will another former winner, Gary Cullen, while current Boys’ internationals Max Kennedy and Dylan Keating will see this as their opportunity to make their senior breakthrough.
Rafferty will lead a strong home challenge into this year’s competition as members of the club’s senior panel will be battling to nail their places in next week’s All-Ireland Barton Shield semi-final against Rosses Point in Westport. Over their home course, the challenge of Aaron Grant, Eoin Murphy, Josh Makin and Brendan Lawlor cannot be underestimated. 
The greenkeeping staff at Dundalk have been working hard over the last few weeks to have the course in top shape for Sunday and Dundalk Captain Pat Davis said everybody is looking forward to the event.
“We have a great field this year and are delighted that James Sugrue and Conor Purcell are able to play given their busy schedules. The course is in superb condition and we are expecting a lot of people to come out and take advantage of the opportunity to see some of our top amateur golfers in action,” he said.

Dundalk retains Leinster Barton Shield pennant

Our Senior Panel have retained the Leinster Barton Shield and booked their place in the All-Ireland semi-final in Westport at the end of September.

Last Saturday at Royal Tara Golf Club, Dundalk beat Woodbrook in the provincial semi-final in the morning before defeating The Island in the final to win a second successive senior pennant.

“Last year was the first time since the Club was founded in 1905 that we won a senior pennant so to have gone out this year and retained it is very special and a great achievement by the lads,” said John Conlon who jointly manages the team with Alan McCabe.

“But it is only a step towards our ultimate goal this year which is to win the All-Ireland title. We were very disappointed to lose in last year’s final and our whole focus this year has been on getting back to the national final and bringing a green pennant back to Dundalk.”

The Barton Shield is a competition for elite players with two two-man pairings playing, off scratch, in a foursomes matchplay format and the match being decided by the aggregate number of holes won.

Dundalk got a massive boost on the eve of the Leinster finals when Caolan Rafferty announced he was available to play after being knocked out in the second round of the South of Ireland Championship on Friday evening.

“We were planning without Caolan because he was the defending champion in the South of Ireland and we were all hoping that he would be in the mix over the weekend,” said Conlon. “It is testament to the type of person he is that immediately after losing on the 20th hole of his second round match, he got into his car and phoned to say he was on his way back and would be in Navan in the morning.”

Quite how Woodbrook felt when the plus six handicapper, who has been named on the 14 man panel from which the ten players to represent Britain and Ireland in the Walker Cup will be picked, teed it up isn’t known, but after winning the first hole they must have felt they were going to benefit from a post-Lahinch hangover.

It proved to be a short-lived feeling because on the second hole Rafferty fired an approach shot to 15 feet and his partner Eoin Murphy sank the birdie putt to bring the match back to all-square.

At the next hole, the Dundalk pairing went one up after Woodbrook put their third shot in the bushes behind the green and stretched their lead to two holes on the par four sixth when Murphy drove around the dog-leg to within 10 yards of the front of the green and Rafferty chipped in for an eagle two.

Although they lost the seventh they turned for home three up after winning the eighth and ninth with birdies. They lost the tenth but restored their three shot advantage on the 12th.

It was clear at this stage that this match was going to decide who would advance to the final because up ahead Josh Mackin and Brendan Lawlor were heading for defeat after a frustrating morning on the greens.

After losing the first hole, they got back to all square by winning the third in par. However, they lost the fourth, sixth and seventh to fall three holes behind by the turn. The Dundalk pairing did rally on the back nine by winning the tenth and 13th to reduce the deficit to one hole but then lost the 14th to birdie and the 15th to par to find themselves three behind again with just three holes to go.

By this point it was a case of limit the damage and hope Rafferty and Murphy in the match behind could win by more than they lost. The youngsters dug deep to win the par five 18th where Mackin found the fairway, Lawlor drilled a two iron 260 yards to off the back of the green, Mackin chipped on to three feet and Lawlor sank the birdie putt.

As that putt dropped, Murphy was pitching in to 10 feet on the 17th and when Woodbrook missed their birdie putt from 30 feet, Rafferty lagged his putt to the edge of the hole and Dundalk’s place in the afternoon final was secured.

The other semi-final between The Island and Palmerstown House went to 19th Hole, giving the Dundalk players some extra time to recover before the final. The managers made one change for the afternoon with the experienced Aaron Grant coming in for debutant Brendan Lawlor as Josh Mackin’s partner in the top match.

“It was great to give Brendan his Barton Shield debut and let him get some very valuable playing time. His approach shot and putt on 18 were crucial to the win in the morning and being able to bring in a fresh and experienced Aaron Grant in the afternoon was a big boost,” said Conlon.

After halving the first three holes of their match against Jonathon Quinn and Rhys Clarke, Grant and Mackin got their noses in front by winning the fourth with a birdie. They extended their lead to two holes by winning the ninth with a birdie but then bogeyed the par three 13th to go back to one up.

Behind them, things didn’t start so well as Rafferty and Murphy lost the first two holes to birdies from Fergal Kennedy and Jack Blake, but they won the third and brought the match back to all square on the seventh when Murphy holed a testy left to right breaking putt following a sublime chip from Rafferty from the back of the green.

A superb tee shot from Rafferty on the par three 11th to six feet set up Murphy for a birdie that put the Dundalk pairing in front for the first time and they followed that up with birdies on the next two holes as Murphy drained putts from 20 and 15 feet respectively to go three up with five to play.

The next three holes were halved and as the two Dundalk pairings went down the 17th they were lying four up overall with four to play. It all ended when Aaron Grant cooly sank a six foot putt to win the 17th in his match and seal a five hole victory for the defending champions.

“The Club is extremely proud of our Senior Panel who have worked very hard over the last number of years to become Leinster champions,” said Dundalk Club Captain Pat Davis.

“It was a massive breakthough last year to win our first senior pennant and reach the All-Ireland Final and to retain it is a tremendous achievement. I would like to congratulate the managers, the players, the caddies and our club professional Leslie Walker for a job well done and we are all looking forward to going to Westport in September and having another shot at winning the national title.”

Dundalk beaten in Senior Cup Regional Final

Despite hosting the event in Dundalk, the Senior Panel were beaten in the Regional Final of the AIG Senior Cup on Sunday by an excellent Laytown & Bettytown team who now progress to the Leinster quarter-final.

The Meathmen laid down a very impressive marker in the strokeplay qualifying on Saturday when they lead home the field by six shots with a combined score of 292 from the four counting scorecards. Greenore came next on 298 with Dundalk on 301 and Skerries on 302 as the top four advanced to Sunday’s matchplay semi-finals.

Laytown booked their place in the final with a comfortable 4-1 win over Skerries but the other semi-final went right to wire. Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin were both winners for Dundalk while Aaron Grant and Conor Curran both lost to leave it at 2-2 with Dundalk’s Neal MacKell one down with two to play. However, last year’s Junior Cup winner showed nerved of steel to win the two final holes in a dramatic finish and seal Dundalk’s place in the regional final.

Any hopes that home advantage would favour Dundalk in the final proved unfounded as the well prepared Laytown team took the first three matches to seal victory with Eoin Murphy losing 2&1while Conor Curran and Neal MacKell were both beaten by two holes having taken their matches to the 18th. Aaron Grant and Josh Mackin were both called in once the Layotwn secured their third point.

Caolan Rafferty and Brendan Lawlor both missed the weekend Senior Cup action as they were in Austria and Czech Republic respectively and posted top ten finished in their respective events.

Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30 – AIG Senior Cup Regional Qualifier – Qualifying: 292 Laytown & Bettystown; 298 Greenore; 301 Dundalk; 302 Skerries; 304 Co Louth; 308 Ardee; 313 Balcarrick; 315 Balbriggan; 320 Rush; 322 Hollywood Lakes. CSS: 73. Semi-finals: Laytown & Bettystown bt Skerries 4/1; Dundalk bt Greenore 3/2. Final: Laytown & Bettystown bt Dundalk 4/1.

Senior panel reach Barton Shield semi-final

Dundalk Golf Club are through to the Leinster semi-finals of the Barton Shield after beating Carton House in the last eight at Seapoint on Saturday.

Last year Dundalk won the Leinster title to claim the club’s first ever senior pennant but lost out on the national crown when they were beaten by Athenry in the All-Ireland Final.

Caolan Rafferty took time out from his preparations for this week’s R&A Amateur Championship in Portmarnock to make himself available for the tie and he partnered Eoin Murphy in what turned out be a very close encounter.

The Dundalk pairing took a one hole lead twice after the third and 10th holes but were pulled back on both occasions to all square by Carton House birdies at the sixth and 11th.

Carton House finally got their noses in front on 14 when the Dundalk pairing recorded their only bogey of the day but they bounced back immediately with a birdie at the next hole, the par three 15th, to get back to all-square and it stayed that way until they were called in.

In the other match Aaron Grant and Josh Mackin were always in control having taken the lead with a birdie on the second hole. They stretched that lead to three holes by winning the fourth and fifth holes with pars before Mackin drained a 20 foot on the par five sixth for eagle and a four hole lead.

A bogey at the par five eighth saw them lose a hole but they won the ninth with another birdie to turn with a four hole lead which then stretched to five with a win on the 11th. Carton House did win 12 and 14 to pull the Dundalk lead back to three but a win on 16 restored the four hole advantage with two to play.

Dundalk will now face the winners of the quarter-final between Corrstown and Woodbrook on Saturday, July 27 at 7.30am in Royal Tara with the final due to take place at 1pm the same day. ENDS

Mackin is Club Champion

 Josh Mackin’s rich vein of form continued on Saturday when he won the Club Championship and in the process moved his handicap to plus one for the first time in his career.

The 17-year-old, who recently won the Ulster Boys Championship, shot rounds of 70 and 71 to take the title by two shots from the defending champion, Araon Grant with Irish international and current holder of West of Ireland and South of Ireland Championships, Caolan Rafferty, in third place a shot further back.

Mackin started slowly and was three over after four holes and although he got one back with a birdie at the sixth he gave it back at the ninth as he turned in three over par 39. A birdie on the par five 10th got him back to two over before he produced a remarkable run of six consecutive threes to cover the final six holes in four under as he came home in five under par for 31.

That left him leading after the first round by three shots from Grant and Eoin Murphy who both shot 73 with Brendan Lawlor a shot further back. Caolan Rafferty found himself five off the lead after a three over par 75.

Rafferty, however, responded in the second round with a three under par 69, the only sub-70 round of the tournament while Grant shot a two under par 70 and Murphy and Lawlor botrh carded 71s as the chasing pack tried to put pressure on the teenage leader.

Mackin, however, held his nerve in the second round although he once again struggled on the front nine. Despite starting with four successive pars and birdieing the sixth, he dropped shots at the fifth, seventh and ninth to turn in 39. However, birdies at two par fives, the 10th and 12th, and an eagle two on short par four 14th got him under par for this round and although he birdied the 15th, he handed that back when he bogeyed 17.

He came home in 32 for a second round total of 71 and finished on three under with a total score of 141. That was enough to get his handicap below scratch as he becomes the fourth Dundalk player currently playing off a plus handicap.

Six members of the Senior Panel took part in Sunday’s Warrenpoint Scratch Cup where Caolan Rafferty finished second after round 70 and 69. Rafferty has been named in the GUI Squad for the St Andrews Links Trophy in Scotland from June 7 to 9.

Saturday, May 11 – Club Championship: 141 – Josh Mackin (70, 71). 143 – Aaron Grant (73, 70). 144 – Caolan Rafferty (75, 69), Eoin Murphy (73, 71). 145 – Brendan Lawlor (74, 71). 149 – Neal MacKell (75, 74), Peter Rogers (75, 74).

 

Top trio head for the West at Rosses Point

Caolan Rafferty, Aaron Grant and Eoin Murphy will tee it up in this week’s West of Ireland Championship at Rosses Point which starts on Thursday and will be a four round strokeplay event with the cut falling after 54 holes.

Josh Mackin missed out on one of the 12 qualifying places last Sunday by one shot iafter shooting a four-over par 71 while Neal Mackell also missed out after a 79.

Rafferty, Grant and Murphy warmed up for the West at the Laytown & Bettystown Scratch Cup last week where defending champion Rafferty finished fifth after two one over par rounds of 72 and Grant and Murphy also finished in the top 15.

 

 

Dundalk beaten in All-Ireland Barton Shield Final

THE Senior Panel’s bid for All-Ireland glory came up agonisingly short when their senior panel was beaten by Athenry in the final of the AIG Barton Shield at Thurles on Friday.

Athenry won by three holes in a match that was in the balance until the 34th hole of what proved to be an epic encounter. The Galway side were deserving winners on a day when Dundalk’s normally laser-sharp driving deserted them.

Alan McCabe, who is joint manager of the Dundalk senior panel along with John Conlon, said they had no excuses.

“Athenry were deserving winners. They played very solid golf in both matches and unfortunately we were struggling to find fairways and hit greens in regulation. Nonetheless, we showed great character in taking the match right down to the wire and we will learn a lot from the experience.

“This was Athenry’s third visit in seven years to the All-Ireland Finals of the Barton Shield and only the first time they had made the final so it’s not an easy thing to win.

“It is disappointing to have come so close and failed but it has been a great campaign. Myself and John have been looking after the senior panel for the past three years and we have made progress every year to the point where this year we won the Leinster Barton Shield for the first time, reached the semi-finals of the Senior Cup in Leinster and the All-Ireland Final of the Barton Shield.

“We have a strong panel of dedicated players, a good team of caddies and also enjoy tremendous support from the club. It was a great source of encouragement to ourselves and the players that so many travelled down to Thurles from Dundalk.

“As a club and a senior panel we are making progress in the right direction and there is no reason that the lads can’t get back at the All-Ireland stage next year and hopefully go one better,” said McCabe.

The Barton Shield is a foursomes competition played off scratch with each club fielding two pairings and the match being decided by the aggregate hole score.

In Friday’s final, Aaron Grant and Conor Curran lost by four holes to Joe Beirne Jnr and Louis O’Hara in the top match while Caolan Rafferty and Eoin Murphy were one up with one to play against Darren Leufer and Allan Hill when Dundalk finally ran out of holes.

And yet, after five holes of the final, it looked as though Dundalk were well on their way to bridging the 14-year gap to their last, and only, national pennant. At that stage Grant and Curran were all square while Rafferty and Murphy were three up having won the third, fourth and fifth.

Indeed Curran and Grant were unlucky not be ahead as, after winning the second, they had lost the par three third to a par having seen Curran’s tee shot pitch on the green and then spin back into the water hazard at the front. At the next hole Curran hit a superb approach shot to within two feet for birdie but Athenry halved the hole when O’Hara drained a 30ft downhill putt.

It was on the 404 yard par four sixth hole that Dundalk’s aura of invincibility began to crack. Aaron Grant’s booming drive landed exactly where he wanted it but the ball kept skipping though the rough until it came to rest at the butt of a tree forcing Curran to play out left-handed.

With Athenry having failed to find the green in two, Grant then saw his delicate pitch from inside 100 yards end up in the massive front bunker. When Curran failed to find the green and Grant narrowly missed holing the resultant chip, Athenry found themselves in front for the first time in the top match.

It was a lead that Beirne and O’Hara would never relinquish as the Dundalk pairing failed to find a fairway for the rest of the round. It is testimony to the recovery skills of Grant and Curran that this match was still in the balance as they walked off the 15th green after Grant had sunk a testy four foot par putt to reduce the deficit to two.

Dundalk had lost the seventh to go two down after Curran’s drive found the trees on the right but they pulled a hole back on the ninth thanks to a magnificent approach from the top of a bank by Grant. Curran then saw his six foot putt for a win on 10 lip out and Beirne had to sink a six foot putt on 11 for a half after Grant’s long-range birdie putt had come to rest on the edge of the hole.

After 11 holes the overall match was delicately poised for while Grant and Curran were one down, Rafferty and Murphy were all square having gone from three up to one down in the space of five holes.

Their three hole winning run had come to an end on the infamous sixth when Murphy missed his par putt and they then lost the next when Hill drained a 20ft birdie putt. The par-five eighth looked be heading Dundalk’s way when Athenry lost their ball with their second shot but Murphy found the water guarding the green with Dundalk’s third and Hill then knocked in another excellent putt to win the hole with a bogey.

Failure to recover from a wayward drive on 10 saw the Dundalk pairing fall one behind but a brilliant 20 foot birdie putt from Murphy on the 11th got them back to all square and left it all to play for in the overall match with 14 holes to go.

But in the top match Grant and Curran quickly found themselves three down after losing the 12th and 13th when they failed to find both greens in regulation while behind them Rafferty and Murphy lost the par three 14th to a par after failing to find the green from the tee.

That left Dundalk trailing by four holes overall with eight holes to play but both pairings won the par four 15th hole with Grant sinking a knee-jerking four foot putt for par while Rafferty drained a 15ft birdie putt to reduce the overall deficit to two holes with six to play.

The 16th proved to be deciding hole. Shooting to a back pin, Athenry’s approach shot found the front part of the green while Curran, playing out of the trees on the left, saw the collar hold up his low running chip. Grant’s long birdie putt from just off the front of the green stopped two feet from the pin but O’Hara won the hole for Athenry when he drained another monster putt, this time holing from almost 40 feet.

That left the Grant and Curran trailing by three with two to play and when they failed to find the 17th green in three after another visit to the trees they were four down as they teed off on the 18th.

Behind them, Murphy and Rafferty had edged ahead when Murphy sank a birdie putt on 16 to put them one up in their match and reduce the overall deficit to three holes with three to play. But, Rafferty’s long drive on 17 was blocked out by a tree on the right forcing Murphy to lay up short of the green. Although Rafferty chipped to within six feet, the Athenry pairing secured their par to halve the hole and seal their first ever senior pennant.

In Thursday morning’s semi-final Dundalk had a comprehensive win over Kinsale, beating the Munster champions by ten holes with both pairings winning their respective matches by five holes.

In the top match, Grant and Curran got off to a nervy start but they still managed to win the opening hole and they went three up after winning the fourth in par and the sixth with birdie. They were pegged back when they lost the seventh but a great birdie putt from Curran saw them win the eighth after Kinsale had lost a ball off the tee.

Wins at 10 and 11 moved them to five up and although Kinsale won the 12th with a par, the Dundalk pairing took the 14th in par to move five up with four play.

Behind them Rafferty and Murphy were always in control and, after halving the first six holes, they finally nudged in front when Rafferty made a great up and down out of a bunker to win the seventh hole in par. They then proceeded to win the next four holes to go five up and halves on 12 and 13 closed out the match.

The Captain of Dundalk Golf Club, Gerry Byrne, paid tribute to the team. “Everybody in Dundalk Golf Club would like to congratulate the Senior Panel on a great campaign. It was tough to come up short in our quest for the club’s second ever national pennant but we did make a major breakthrough earlier in the year when we won the Leinster Barton Shield title for our first senior pennant. I have no doubt that we will learn from this experience and come back stronger next year.”