Having lost in the final of the Barton Shield to Warrenpoint at the 20th and to Fortwilliam on the 18th in the decisive match in the Junior Cup decider on the previous day, they went down yesterday to North West in the Senior Cup semi-final, again on the home green.
The Bulmers festival continues to be a bonanza for the northern clubs as Castleblayney made it an Ulster whitewash so far by capturing the Pierce Purcell Shield in a veritable cliffhanger against Castletroy.
North West now look a good bet to improve the tally to four in the Senior Cup although Hermitage, who had too much strength in depth in the other senior semi-final, are well capable of putting a stop to their gallop. This morning’s other final involves The Island and Ballybunion in the Jimmy Bruen Shield after they prevailed in yesterday’s semi-finals against Mannan Castle and Carrick-on-Shannon.
In a tense clash with Galway, North West always looked likely to clinch two points through the richly talented Brian McElhinney, the reigning British Amateur champion, and Michael McGeady, and this duly came to pass when they accounted for Eddie McCormack and Mark O’Sullivan respectively by 3 and 2.
However, it wasn’t readily apparent where the vital third match would come from and battle was predictably joined when John Neary and Joe Lyons levelled matters for Galway with impressive wins over Padraig MacLochlainn and Pauric O’Flaherty. North West’s place in the final was eventually assured when Garrett Mallon proved too consistent for Tom Nolan.
The Donegal club will be seeking their first national pennant when they take on Hermitage, Senior Cup champions back in 1926, starting at 9.30 this morning.
The Dublin side always held a slight edge in their contest with Limerick but this was one that could also have gone either way. True, Greg Massey had a massive 7 and 6 win over Mike Kemmy and Brian O’Connor made a huge contribution to the Hermitage cause by beating current international Pat Murray, finishing the affair with a lovely birdie on the 17th. But Ger Vaughan, in the Limerick side as a replacement for the unavailable Cian McNamara, kept them in touch by disposing of Alan Dowling and Michael O’Kelly, one down against Greg Bowden on the 18th, and Dermot Morris, all square with Sean O’Flaherty at the same point, were there with a chance of saving their club’s bacon. However, that ray of hope was promptly extinguished when O’Kelly hooked his drive into the bushes on the left of the fairway and lost the ball. Bowden himself actually played the hole a little nervously before eking out the par five that finally finished it all off.
Each of the finals so far have been desperately tight affairs and the same applied very much to the Pierce Purcell Shield which ended in a great victory for Castleblayney and in a welter of excitement. The Monaghan club was level on two matches each with Castletroy and clinging on to a one hole lead as the decisive match reached the 18th. Castletroy’s Kieran Punch and Pat McNamara had been consistently the longer strikers off the tee and had no problem in reaching the green in the regulation three shots. However, Castleblayney’s Noel Flanagan and Martin Rafter were still a good 40 yards from the flag and in light rough in the same number.
Flanagan chose his putter to negotiate this most crucial of shots and to his eternal credit, he judged it beautifully and left the ball three inches behind the hole. McNamara now had a 25-footer for birdie to keep the match alive but his putt rimmed out.
Castletroy’s defeat was particularly disappointing for 73 year-old Michael Tracey who partnered Tom Coffey to a 4 and 3 win over Eamon Toal and Francis Murphy, his second triumph of the festival.
Late in the day, and to nobody’s surprise, The Island and Ballybunion qualified for this morning’s Jimmy Bruen Shield final with convincing wins over Mannan Castle of Monaghan and Carrick-on-Shannon.