Week dominated by titanic battles with Ardee in cup competitions

Last week was dominated by a series of titanic inter-club battles with neighbours Ardee as the clubs met in the Senior Cup, Jimmy Bruen Shield and Barton Cup having already clashed in the Junior Cup the previous weekend when Ardee ran out winners by 3.5 to 1.5.

Hopes of immediately gaining revenge for that defeat last Thursday in the Senior Cup were dashed when the young Ardee team emerged 3-2 winners in dramatic fashion. The match was in the balance after Aaron Grant and Caolan Rafferty won while Andrew Keenan and Conor Curran were beaten. Eoin Murphy was two up with three holes to play but failed to close out the match and ended up losing on the 20th.

The Jimmy Bruen Cup team were next on the Friday and there was plenty of drama here as well. Damian English and Aidan Thornton lost 6&5 in Ardee but Eugene Hanratty and Conor Murphy won 4&3 while in Dundalk Emmet Savage and Ciaran Sheridan lost on the 17th but Joseph Laverty and Michael Staunton secured a sensation victory on the 18th when Laverty holed his approach for an eagle two to win one up. That left everything hanging on the final match in Ardee where teenagers Ciaran Johnston and Chris Clarke were all square through 19 before bad light halted play.

The match was eventually concluded last Thursday when Johnson and Martin returned to Ardee. ch in our Jimmy Bruen Shield tie against the home club. The 20th, which was the second in Ardee, was par three and both Dundalk players found the green from the tee with Ardee chipping on to eight and 10 feet respectively. Johnston from 60ft got to within three feet of the hole while Clarke, rolled his swinging putt inside him. When Ardee missed both their par putts, it was left to Johnston to close out the match with a solid putt.  Dundalk will now play The Island in the next round.

Ardee’s impressive first round demolition of Headfort meant they started as raging hot favourites when the clubs met for the fourth time in eight days in the Barton Cup last Saturday but manager Carl Stewart had his homework done, got his pairings right and with watched with satisfaction as Dundalk won the three first three matches #

In Dundalk, Andrew Keenan and Conor Conroy, playing in the top match, were always in control from the moment Keenan won the opening hole. They went two up after winning the 13th and although Ardee responded immediately by winning the 14th, Conroy won the 15th and they closed out the match on 16 for a 3&2 win.

Behind them Clem Walshe and Kevin Redmond looked to be on their way victory when they were three up after eight but Ardee won the next three holes to draw level and ask serious questions of the Dundalk duo. However, Walshe and Redmond hung in and eventually got back in front on the 15th before closing out the match by taking 18 to win 2up.

That left Dundalk 2-0 ahead and they got over the line when Mark Gorham and 15-year-old Chris Clarke snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the top match in Ardee. A purple patch from the 8th hole onwards saw Ardee open up a commanding four hole lead through 11 but Gorman and Clarke kept their nerve and dug deep. Over the next six holes they dovetailed well to bring it back to all square with one to play.  A superb 20 foot birdie putt from Gorham on the 18th nullified Ardee’s nett birdie to send the match into sudden death where it was finally decided on the 21st when Clarke showed nerves of steel to sink a slippery six foot par for par and the winning point.

The other matches were called in, giving Dundalk a 4-1 victory. Shane Hession and John Mulligan were all square going down 18 after a high quality encounter where there was never more than one hole between the pairings while Peter Rogers and Bobby McCarthy were also involved in a tight match and were on the verge of going back to all square on the 17th when their match was called in.

Wins in Senior and Junior Cups but Pierce Purcell team lose

There’s been a good start to the commencement of inter-club competitions for 2020 with two of our three teams recording first round victories over the past week.

On Thursday, our Senior Cup team had a narrow 3-2 win over Laytown & Bettytown who had won the regional qualifier last year in Dundalk and, with three matches of the five matches being played on the famous Co Meath links, they were favourites to advance.

The match was decided in Laytown after it finished 1-1 in Dundalk where Aaron Grant played some great golf to see off Jack McDonnell who had won the Balbriggan Scratch Cup the previous Sunday. McDonnell was five under through the front nine and along the way eagled the par five sixth following a drive and wedge to eight feet.

But after being two down after two, Grant hung in and won five and 11 to go level with seven to play, He edged in front by winning the 15th and then sealed a 2 and 1 victory by winning on 17.

Behind him Josh Mackin found himself three down after four but managed to steady the ship without being able to eat into his opponent’s lead and eventually ran out of holes on the 16th as he lost 3 and 2, having shaved the edge of the hole with his birdie putt.

In Laytown, Maurice Murphy played their star player Alex Maguire, recently returned from an impressive sophomore year in Florida Atlantic University, in the top match but a misbehaving driver left Maurice chasing the match from early on and he eventually he succumbed on the 14th hole.

Behind him, Eoin Murphy played Annrai Collins and after a blistering start he was three up after three holes. Although Collins pulled him back to all square after 10, Murphy’s power game was ideally suited to the newly re-routed Laytown layout and a series of 350 yard plus drives saw him regain control of the match and run out a comfortable 3&1 winner.

That left everything hinging on the final match where Irish international and Walker Cup star Caolan Rafferty was matched against the dogged David Foy. An out of sorts Rafferty, combined with some inspired iron play from Foy, saw the Dundalk player trailing by one hole with six to play.

But, with Dundalk’s Senior Cup campaign hanging by a thread, Rafferty rose to the challenge and popped in three birdies over the next five holes to record a great 2&1 win and earn Dundalk a place in the next round against either Ardee or Royal Tara.

The clubs met again on Friday in the Junior Cup with Dundalk have the advantage of three matches at home and they made it count as Andrew Keenan, Billy Cairns and Joseph Laverty all won while Laytown and Bettystown won their two home matches to leave the final score at 3-2.

After almost driving the first hole, Keenan was never in trouble in the top match and romped to a 5&4 victory while Cairns won 2&1. Laverty found himself two down after four holes but responded well and played some great golf as he hauled himself back into the match and on the 17th.

On Sunday the Pierce Purcell Shield team met Royal Tara with three matches taking place in Dundalk. The Meath club won the two matches over their home track by 4&2 while, in Dundalk, Ultan Herr and Emmet Savage McCabe took the top match 3&2. John Mulligan & Michael O’Sullivan were dormie two as they headed to the 17th tee but they were called in after Danny Miele & Pat Davis, in the bottom match, lost on the 15th to a strong Meath pairing.

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 Cup runs ended at semi-final stage

Eoin Murphy and caddy Peter Rogers won both their matches in Mount Juliet

DUNDALK Golf Club’s bid for an historic Leinster senior double came up short at the weekend when they were beaten by Dun Laoghaire in the provincial semi-finals of the AIG Senior Cup.

Having won the first senior pennant in the 113 year history of the club just five weeks previously, when they clinched the Barton Shield in Mount Wolseley, Dundalk’s senior panel headed to Mount Juliet hoping to add the Senior Cup pennant but it was not to be despite a battling performance.

Dundalk cleared the first hurdle on Saturday morning with a 3.5 to 1.5 win over The Island in the quarter-finals but went down 3.5 to 1.5 to pre-tournament favourites Dun Laoghaire in the semi-final on Saturday afternoon.

“It was very tight,” said joint team manager John Conlon after the defeat against Dun Laoghaire. “There was never more than a hole or two in the difference in four of the matches throughout the afternoon but unfortunately we were the ones who were behind and chasing and in the end we just ran out of holes.”

Conlon, who along with Alan McCabe has overseen the transformation of the team into one of the strongest senior outfits in Leinster, added that despite the disappointment they would take a lot of positives from the weekend in Mount Juliet.

“it was a fabulous experience and will stand us in good stead for the All-Ireland Finals of the Barton Shield in Thurles in October. Both matches asked a lot of questions of us so we will analyse what happened and take the learnings on board..

While Dun Laoghaire coasted to an easy 4-1 win over Tullamore in their morning quarter-final, Dundalk found themselves in a battle with The Island where they showed great character to resist a late fight back from the Dubliners.

South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty put the first point on the board with a 3&1 win but Josh Mackin lost 3&2 as The Island drew level. A drive and a six iron to the par five 17th set up Eoin Murphy for a 2&1 win and with Conor Curran dormie two playing 17, and Aaron Grant one up playing 16, the advantage was with Dundalk.

But Curran then lost 17 to a birdie and Grant lost 16 as The Island fought back to keep the match alive.

Dundalk, however, were not be denied. Curran split the fairway on 18 and clinched the winning point when his opponent lost the hole after getting into all sorts of trouble in a lateral water hazard on the left of the final green.

With Grant’s match all square when it was called in, it meant Dundalk emerged winners by 3.5 to 1.5 and joined Dun Laoghaire, Portmarnock and Enniscorthy in the last four.

Josh Mackin was sent out first and the 17-year-old gave Dundalk the best possible start by winning the first three holes against Alan Fahy but behind him all his colleagues found themselves behind after three holes.

Mackin then lost the next four holes to par and found himself one down after seven and that became two when his opponent chipped in for birdie on nine. A great birdie on 10 saw Mackin pull one back but he then lost four of the next five holes as he fell to a 5&3 defeat.

Eoin Murphy found himself one down after finding the water on the par three third and he was trailing by two holes after 10 but he won the next three holes to go one up.

He responded impressively to losing the 14th by birdieing the 15th and then won 16th before halving the 17th in par for an excellent 2&1 win, his second victory of the day.

Aaron Grant was two down after seven but won eight and nine to get back to all square before losing 10 and 11 to again trail by two. Once again he bounced back, winning 12 and 13, to leave it all to play for with five to go.

But he lost the next three holes to lose 3&2 and leave Dun Laoghaire 2-1 ahead and needing just one more point from the two matches still playing.

Caolan Rafferty had been playing catch-up after losing the opening two holes but try as he might he was unable to peg his opponent back to all square. His day was summed up on the 17th when he found himself behind a fairway tree from where he could only play out left-handed and was unlucky to find himself behind another tree.

He eventually found the green in four but missed his long par putt and his opponent took the two putts he had to take the match by 2&1 and secure Dun Laoghaire’s place in the final.

Conor Curran was one down from the second to the ninth but won 10 to get back to all square and moved in front when he chipped in for a birdie to take the 15th. However, Rafferty’s loss meant Curran was called in and his match declared a half.

It was a disappointing defeat for Dundalk but they can still finish the season with a green pennant as they have already qualified for All Ireland Finals in Thurles in the Barton Shield where they will face Munster champions Kinsale in the semi-finals.

“Our focus will now turn to Thurles where we will be looking to win our first ever national senior title,” said Conlon. “Once again we had tremendous support in Mount Juliet, which the players greatly appreciated, and hopefully we will have a big crowd in Thurles in October.”

 

AIG Senior Cup Leinster Finals

Saturday, August 25

Quarter-Finals

Dundalk 3.5 The Island 1.5

Dun Laoghaire 4 Tullamore 1

Portmarnock 3.5 Old Conna 1.5

Enniscorthy 3 Carton House 2

 

Semi Finals

Dun Laoghaire 3.5 Dundalk 1.5

Portmarnock 4 Enniscorthy 1

 

Final

Dun Laoghaire 1.5 Portmarnock 3.5

 

 

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

Men’s senior and ladies juniors march on as three teams bow out

Dundalk Golf Club have qualified for the Leinster Finals of the AIG Senior Cup, the most prestigious inter-club competition in Irish golf, and remain on course for an historic double having already qualified for the Leinster finals of the Barton Shield.

It was a tremendous end to a week that was bookended by two fabulous victories as the Ladies Junior Cup team also advanced to the Leinster quarter-finals when they defeated Laytown & Bettytown at the beginning of the week.

However, in between those two magnificent wins was a lot of heartache as Dundalk’s runs in the Jimmy Bruen Shield, All Ireland Fourball and Revive Active Fourball came to an end.

It is the first time in the club’s history that a team has reached the Leinster finals of the top two inter-club competitions in the same year and the senior team will head to Mount Wolseley in July and Mount Juliet in August with a lot of confidence after three impressive wins over the weekend in the regional qualifying round of the Senior Cup at Laytown & Bettystown.

Having received a bye in the First Round, Dundalk faced Killeen Castle on Saturday afternoon and won by 3.5 to 1.5 with Caolan Rafferty winning 6&5, Aaron Grant winning 3&1 and Conor Curran winning 3&2.

On Sunday morning they met Headfort and there were wins for Rafferty, Curran and Grant while Brendan Lawlor, for the second successive match, was called in while in a strong positive to win his match.

That set up a regional final with Co Louth and Eoin Murphy, who had flown in that morning from England, won two up after being dormie four. Fellow Irish Boys international Josh Mackin, who like Murphy had only finished his Leaving Certificate last Thursday, came from two down to win 2&1 thanks to birdies on three of the final four holes.

Rafferty was six under par in his 5&3 win while Grant was two up when his match was called in.

The win booked Dundalk a place in the Leinster final at Mount Juliet with their quarter-final match against The Island scheduled for August 28.

Earlier in the day, Dundalk’s Jimmy Bruen Shield team came agonisingly close to reaching the Leinster Finals in their regional qualifier at Roganstown.

They opened up with a 3.5 to 1.5 win over leading qualifiers Balbriggan with Pat Purton and Paul O’Callaghan winning 7&6, Billy Cairns & Zak Alderdice winning 4&3 and Damien English and Christy Ward winning on the 20th. Conal Murdock and Conor Murphy were looking good to win their match on the 19th when called in while Shane Hession and Fergal Sexton came up against Balbriggan’s strongest pairing and lost 5&4.

In the regional final on Sunday afternoon Dundalk faced Forest Little and a comfortable 6&5 win for for Ward and English and a 5&4 win for Murdock and Murphy left the tie level at 2-2 after Cairns & Alderdice and Ciaran Traynor and Cian Lynch McCrave had lost their matches.

It all came down to the match involving Purton and O’Callaghan which was all square after 16. However, Dundalk lost the 17th to a birdie and then saw Forest Little sink a 10ft putt for par on the 18th before O’Callaghan’s birdie putt to send the match down the 19th lipped out.

There was more heartbreak in the All-Ireland Fourball Leinster quarter-final against last year’s Leinster finalists, Malahide, who beat Frank Byrne’s charges 3-2 in a dramatic match that was eventually finished at around 10pm on Thursday evening.

In Malahide, Dundalk lost the opening match 4&3 as Colm Garvey and Michael Keating were hit by blitzkrieg from a home pairing that were two under gross for the 15 holes played as they rolled in three birdies, 11 pars and one bogey in a faultless round.

Behind them, Kevin Carthy and Ray Pepper were three down with four to play but won 15, 16 and 18 to draw level with Carthy producing a miraculous chip over a greenside bunker from the trees on the last to find the green and then sank a 15ft putt to send the match down the 19th.

On the first sudden death hole, it was Pepper who came to the fore as he hit a fabulous shot out of a fairway bunker to within six feet of the green and then chipped on to leave himself with two putts for the win and Dundalk’s first point on the board.

The remaining three matches were played in Dundalk where Adrian Kenny and Gerry McDermott maintained their unbeaten run with an excellent 3&1 win having taken control of the match midway through the opening nine when they won the fourth, fifth and sixth to open up a three hole lead.

Peter O’Brien and Dermot McKenna were involved in an extremely tight match which was all square with three to play but they lost 16 and 17 and were edged out 2&1 to leave the tie at 2-2 with one match out on the course.

Eamonn McEneaney and Joe Flanagan had been four down after 10 but they won the next three holes to reduce the deficit to one and, after losing the 14th, they bounced back with wins at the 15th, 16th and 17th to stand one up with one to play.

After Malahide had secured their par on the 18th, the home pair both had putts to send Dundalk into the Leinster semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history but both efforts burned the edge of the hole and sent the match down the 19th where Malahide secured the win with a five.

Earlier that day, the Ladies Revive Action team were beaten in their Third Round match by Ardee who won by 3.5 to 1.5.

At the beginning of last week the Ladies Junior Cup team reached the Leinster Finals with a 3-2 win over Laytown & Bettystown and they will now face Rathfarnham in Foxrock for a place in the semi-finals.