There was relief as much as joy for Galway Golf Club at Carton House as the pain of a third successive Barton Shield final defeat was erased with victory in the blue riband event at the AIG Cups and Shields on Saturday.
Denied an All-Ireland gold medal two days previously when Warrenpoint lifted the Barton Shield at their expense for the second time in a row, a third straight final defeat last Thursday could have come at a cost to Galway’s Senior Cup prospects.
Yet the Connacht champions battled through Friday’s semi-final against Royal Portrush and on Saturday moved up a gear as they defeated Munster pennant holders Limerick 4-1 in the final.
“It’s a monkey off the back. We’ve lost three in a row in the Barton Shield so this is brilliant,” Galway team captain Kieran O’Mahony said.
“I am absolutely thrilled for the lads. They deserve it.” It was a third Senior Cup victory in 11 years for the westerners but a first since 2009. Joe Lyons has been on all three winning teams, the first of which was in 2006, when youngest team-mate Luke O’Neill, 16, was five years of age. With Liam Nolan, 17, and Liam Power, 18, even Ronan Mullarney at 22 said he felt old. Lyons, 45, said he felt “ancient”. Yet all five contributed points to this victory from their singles
“I won a Senior Cup in Enniscrone in 2006 and myself and Dave Scully, and Eddie McCormack were the youngest on the team, we were all 34, 35,” Lyons said, “and Tom Nolan and Stephen Keenan were in their 40s at the time. I am 45 now and feel ancient, over the hill! These lads look at me like I am their granddad. That’s my third Senior Cup medal. It’s strange. We were after losing three Barton Shields finals on the bounce, but I have been in three Senior Cup finals and won all three.
“It’s a lifetime memory. In 20 years’ time, you will look back and say you won a Senior Cup with these guys, even though they are 20 years younger than me. All the guys you win Senior Cup with, there’s a bond. It’s a lovely thing to win. It’s a national title and in my mind, it’s the purest form of club golf. There are no handicaps involved. There is nobody building handicaps to play in Senior Cup and Barton Shield. The teams and the golfers are genuine, and it’s straight matches. It’s the blue riband of club golf.”
Mullarney, who won a Senior Cup in 2015 with Maynooth University, had the honour of claiming the point that confirmed Galway’s victory, but he had to work hard to get over the line against Limerick’s Michael Reddan, who had gone into an early one-hole lead but found himself trailing the Galway man, four down with five to play.
Mullarney bogeyed 14 on the O’Meara course and was three up with three to play. A halved hole at 16 would have given Galway the title but he three putted and Reddan won the hole. When Mullarney got up and down from 60 yards on 17, rolling in an eight-foot putt to seal a 2&1 win, Galway were finally home.
Mullarney admitted: “It’s huge. It is great to eventually win one. We were calling ourselves Mayo yesterday because we were getting to the final and not making it over the last hurdle. The thoughts of going home empty-handed… I didn’t want to say it to the lads but the thought of that was nearly driving me on more than anything else.”
While the 22-year-old Mullarney was celebrating a second Senior Cup gold medal, the other side of club golf was brought into focus in the Jimmy Bruen Shield final as Castlebar were relishing a first senior green pennant in their 107-year history after a 3-2 victory over Warrenpoint in the mid-handicappers’ foursomes competition.
And for the Connacht champions’ Shane Quigley it was a particularly sweet victory following heartache in the Bruen at Carton House in 2015, when Castlebar lost the final to Ballybunion. Fast forward to Saturday and it was the Mayomen denying Warrenpoint a rare double, the Ulster champions having won the scratch foursomes’ Barton Shield at Galway’s expense last Thursday.
“It means a lot and to do it with 13 lads from Castlebar, they’re all from the town, it just means everything.”
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