Favourites Woodstock chase their first national pennant

GALWAY is bracing itself for a shindig to beat all shindigs should Woodstock capture the Bulmers Pierce Purcell Shield over the next couple of days.

The 11-year-old Ennis club is seeking its first national pennant as indeed are today's semi-final rivals Loughrea, as well as the other qualifiers Moyola Park from Castledawson and Castlewarden from Co Kildare.

Woodstock would seem to be the front-runners for the champions' title. One of their team members is Michael O'Brien, a man known throughout the country where traditional Sean Nos music is concerned. He is a magnificent entertainer and not a bad golfer either, a point he has proven this year in his all-conquering partnership with Liam McInerney.

They have won all their six matches to date and won't give up that enviable record without a mighty battle when they take on their Loughrea opponents Vincent Leahy and Martin Kennedy in the first match off the tee at 10.50.

Nor, I am assured, is there any danger of Woodstock missing out on support just because Clare are involved in a certain game at Croke Park on Sunday. Indeed, John O'Connor, a brother of the celebrated Jamesie, is a member of the Woodstock team, while two other members of the squad, Martin Nugent and Martin Meehan, have worn the county jersey with distinction on many occasions.

The gaelic games connection runs deep within the panel, which ranges in age from approximately 22 to 55 a nice blend of youth and experience, if you like.

Tony Coote and Robbie Dormer boast an unbeaten record as they travel to the Salthill venue. Coote is an experienced performer, having partnered brothers Michael, Anthony, Declan and Luke to several victories in the prestigious Brothers Trophy at Kenmare.

Declan, of course, hurled for Clare, and Michael is a former captain of Tralee and is now the secretary/manager of the new club at Castleisland.

Dormer, for his part, has captured 10 Munster handball championships and three at All-Ireland level although he did lose in another decider to one DJ Carey another GAA connection.

It also so happens that Luke Coote is the team captain of the Pierce Purcell Shield team, that Jimmie Kelly is club captain and that Liam McInerney was captain two years ago.

"This has been a huge year for the club," points out secretary/manager Seamus Kelly. "We got to the Munster final of the Mixed Foursomes only to lose the crucial fifth match at the 19th against Bandon, but now we have the ideal opportunity to go all the way to a national pennant. It's what we've been striving for since 1992."

Bulmers Pierce Purcell Shield semi-finals: 10.50am, Loughrea v Woodstock, Loughrea, names first: V Leahy and M Kennedy v L McInerney and M O'Brien; B Fahy and J Greally v M Kelly and D Lynch; J Dervan and A Greally v F Doherty and J O'Connor; K Greally and T Horan v A Coote and R Dormer; J O'Connor and P Murray v J Kelly and M Nugent.

11.40, Moyola Park v Castlewarden, Moyola names first: A Corr and F Archer v E Butler and D Bolger; K Beatty and G Caskey v C Kellett and N Walsh; D Caskey and L Peoples v S Callery and A Birthistle; A Kearney and R O'Kane v B Flynn and D O'Neill; M Gormley and J McCluskey v J Murray and B Devereux.

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