Senior panel qualify for Barton Shield Quarter-Final

Dundalk Golf Club took a major step towards retaining their Leinster Barton Shield pennant when their senior panel emerged from a tough regional qualifier at Killeen Castle over the weekend. They now advance to a quarter-final against Carton House at a venue and date to be decided by Leinster Golf where a place in the Leinster finals at Royal Tara on July 27 will be up for grabs.

But Dundalk had to sweat it out during Saturday’s foursomes strokeplay qualifying round which involved 14 clubs from the North East including Irish Senior Cup holders Portmarnock. The Dublin side led home the qualifiers with a one under par total of 143 from their two pairings with Laytown & Bettystown next on 144 and hosts Killeen Castle third on 145.

With Eoin Murphy and Josh Mackin going around in five over par for 77 and Caolan Rafferty and Aaron Grant coming home with a two under par 70, Dundalk were lying fourth on 147 and looking vulnerable as Co Louth were leading them by three shots with four holes to go. However, the Baltray side stumbled on the run-in and finished on 148, one shot behind the Dundalk men while the final grouping of Greenore, Seapoint and Balcarrick failed to match or better 147 thus allowing Dundalk to squeeze into the matchplay semi-finals on Sunday.

However, it meant they faced Portmarnock in the last four with Aaron Grant and Josh Mackin meeting Sean Flanagan and Stephen Walsh while Caolan Rafferty and Josh Macken took on Australian Amateur Open Champion Conor Purcell and the very experience Geoff Leneghan. In the top match Grant and Mackin were one down after nine but got back level by winning the 12th. After swapping the 13th and 14th and then the 15th and 16th they halved the last two to finish all square.

That left the outcome of the tie down to the second match where Rafferty and Murphy were three down after six but they kick-started their round with a superb eagle on seven and started playing solid golf. They got back on level terms and then won the 15th to go one up and sealed a two hole win by taking the 17th.

Laytown and Bettystown beat Killeen Castle in the other semi-final but they found themselves up against a Dundalk side that had found its stride. In the top match, after losing the opening hole, Grant and Mackin won the second and fourth to go one up and stretch their lead to two holes on 11. However, they lost 12 and 14 before bouncing back on the par five 15th where Mackin responded to a superb drive from Grant by drilling his 200 yard approach to 15 feet and Grant rolled the putt to the edge of the hole for a gimme birdie which Laytown failed to match. At the next, a seven iron to 15ft from Mackin left Grant lagging for a tap-in par that Laytown failed to match.

They were called in at that point because, behind them, Rafferty and Murphy had sealed a five hole victory having never been in trouble from the moment they won the first hole. They also won the fourth and sixth and turned two up before going four up with wins at the 12th and 14th. They sealed the deal on 15 where Rafferty fired a four iron 190 yards into a headwind to set up Murphy with an eagle putt from 15 feet.

Dundalk Team Managers Alan McCabe and John Conlon were delighted to have guided their charges to their fourth successive win in the regional qualifier although McCabe admitted that they got a fright in the strokeplay round.

“It was definitely a wake-up call for the boys and they knew they had to up their game on Sunday, especially as they were facing Portmarnock in the semi-final. They played very solidly on Sunday and were very focused,” said McCabe. “It is a great achievement to win the regional qualifiers four years in a row especially given the quality of clubs that participate in it each year. We had great support on both days and we will now focus on Carton House who are another formidable team.” ENDS