The outstanding Tramore course once again proved a happy hunting ground for Limerick Golf Club over the weekend when they pulled off a highly impressive double in the Munster finals of the AIG Irish Senior Cup-Barton Shield and so qualified for the national finals to take place at Westport on September 20-22.
Tramore were also celebrating having made it through to Westport in the Junior Cup while also savouring the many well-founded compliments passed about their course with the sunny South-East living up to its fabled reputation.
It was back in 1976 that a Limerick squad including internationals Vincent Nevin and Jackie Harrington completed the All-Ireland Senior Cup-Barton Shield double at Tramore and it looks as if a nice blend of youth and experience could do so all over again this time round.
The experience in the squad is provided by Justin Kehoe, South of Ireland champion in 2001, and Michael O’Kelly, the beaten finalist in the ‘South’ in 1993. Owen O’Brien, Patrick Naughton and Ciaran Vaughan are recognised as some of the more promising young golfers in the province.
A 4-1 scoreline over Bandon in the final might give the impression of a runaway success for Limerick but that was far from the case. O’Brien had to go to the 19th in the top match before seeing off Kieran Hurley and Vaughan was brought to the 18th at number two by David McCarthy. However, that decided the issue in Limerick’s favour with Kehoe always firmly in command against Dwayne Twomey.
The morning semi-finals generated a considerable degree of excitement, especially the clash of Bandon and Tralee. The Kerry side looked good when Fergal O’Sullivan and Eoghan O’Donnell claimed the opening two matches, before a couple of wins on the 17th green for Darren O’Donoghue and Dwayne Twomey for Bandon over Anton O’Callaghan and David Fitzgerald left the outcome depending on the tie hole clash of Ger Tobin and Graham Spring. Tobin knocked in a good putt to see Bandon through at the 20th.
Limerick got their busy weekend off on the right note with victory over Tralee in Saturday’s Barton Shield decider. They edged a close run semi-final against Kinsale who enjoyed a narrow advantage for much of the proceedings before Limerick struck late on. Vaughan and Michael Reddan snatched a two-hole advantage over Gary Ward and Keith Fitzpatrick leaving a half for Kehoe and Sean Poucher against Cathal Butler and Ronnie Walsh sufficient to see the Ballyclough club into the final.
They were joined there by Tralee, comprehensive semi-final winners over Dungarvan, and the finals was another close affair for the most part. Once again, Vaughan and Reddan came up trumps, leading Darren O’Sullivan and Eoghan O’Donnell by three holes. Darren’s brother Fergal and Ger Deegan kept Tralee in touch for most of the afternoon but a one hole advantage over Kehoe and O’Brien wasn’t enough to prevent the Limerick celebrations.
Tramore served emphatic notice on their way to a convincing victory in the Junior Cup that they are fully capable of repeating the achievement of the club’s 1984 squad when they came through their semi-final encounter with Adare Manor and the final against East Cork to go on and represent the Co Waterford club in the national finals.
No doubt, home course advantage played an important part in their success although Adare certainly extended them with Martin Walsh needing to go to the 19th in winning the top match against Cian Hall while David Bennett was brought the full 18 before seeing off the brave challenge of Chris Ronan.
Tramore’s place in the afternoon final was clinched when Rory Kiery enjoyed a 14th green success over Seamus Twomey. East Cork proved worthy winners over Newcastle West in the other ‘semi’ but found Tramore too much of a handful in the decider. Walsh again came through a tough battle on the 18th against James Gillespie and that point effectively settled the outcome in their favour with Bennett and David Spillane winning with plenty to spare.
The triumphant quintet was completed by Kiery and Paul Power.
See Digest Page 30 for results