Munster champions Monkstown will be happy to play the underdog role as the race for Irish club golf’s blue riband, the AIG Senior Cup, goes down to the last four this morning at Carton House in Kildare.
Monkstown are the only one of the four provincial pennant winners not to have won the national title and in semi-final opponents Co. Sligo they face perhaps the most successful Senior Cup outfit in recent years.
The Rosses Point club’s four Senior Cups have come in 1996, 97, 2007 and most recently in 2013 when their title defence fell just one tie short with a final defeat the following year.
Two more previous champions Castle and Shandon Park meet in the second final with the former vying to complete a rare double after their low handicappers won the Junior Cup yesterday.
Which puts Monkstown in the outsider category in terms of recent pedigree despite their impressive progress from the Munster finals last month at Cork GC. Pat O’Keefe’s quintet of Martin Poucher, Sean Desmond, Eoghan Long, Nick Moore and Donal McDonnell saw off Ballybunion in the semi-finals before taking down Castletroy in the decider to land their third pennant in the scratch singles event, the most recent coming in 1963.
The team manager, though, is happy for Monkstown to fly under the radar. “Sligo are a quality team,” O’Keeffe said. “They were champions in 2013 and were finalists in 2014 so that speaks for itself whereas we haven’t won Munster since 1963, so we recognise the challenge facing us. We’ll be outsiders but that’s okay. It’s five against five so we’ll have to get on with it.
“To win the Munster final was huge for us and anything after that is a bonus, but we’ll still go in with the attitude as the three other clubs, we’ll want to win.
“When you win in your province everybody knows everybody but when you come out of the province, no-one knows too much about anybody else. Clearly the other clubs have some fine players and you have to recognise what they’ve achieved.”
What will count for Monkstown is the support they are looking to mobilise for the trip up from Cork, their yellow club sweaters a prominent feature en route to Munster success at Little Island four weeks ago.
Nenagh will be strong favourites for today’s AIG Pierce Purcell Shield Final, where each of the team’s five pairings must have minimum individual handicaps of 12 and minimum combined of 27. The Munster pennant holders face Connacht’s Castlebar after they crushed Ulster champions Nuremore 4-1 in their semi-final yesterday.
The Tipperary club’s first three foursome pairings got the job done in short order, Paddy Kennedy and Padraig Hackett winning their match 6&4, Bernard Hackett and Pat J Hogan cruising to a 7&6 win before Mel Gleeson and John Hogan wrapped up their match 6&5, leaving the final two matches to be called in.
Castlebar reached the final with a 3-2 win over Castlecomer.
The Jimmy Bruen Shield semi-finals tee off this morning when Ulster champions Fortwilliam meet Athenry in the mid-handicappers’ pairs contest before Muskerry fly the flag for Munster against Leinster’s Cill Dara. Tony Gardner and Andrew Gray, Sean Geary and Gary Lucas, Fionn Hickey and Paul Hurley, Fergal Murphy and Michael O’Brien, and Mick O’Callaghan and Jack Taylor will be carrying the hopes of the Cork club after they beat Killarney in the Munster semi-final and then defeated Spanish Point.
“It was tought getting out of Munster and hopefully that will stand to us here,” Muskerry manager Sean Cronin said after his team’s final practice round on the O’Meara course yesterday.
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