Doran the hero as Banbridge capture first Barton Shield

TWENTY ONE-year-old Connor Doran performed the necessary heroics over the closing holes to play the lead part in yesterday’s Bulmer’s Barton Shield victory for Banbridge over Stackstown at Lisburn.

On a breezy but mild day, the Co Down club captured its first green pennant, making light of the absence of their new Irish international Richard Kilpatrick (a student at college in the United States) to dispose of Connemara in the semi-finals and a well fancied Stackstown side in the decider.

Stackstown held the initiative for much of the afternoon but Doran, an Irish boys and youths international, produced the decisive strokes at the most crucial moments. He rattled in a 25-footer for a birdie at the long 14th to enable himself and Kieran Magennis to draw level with the McDermott brothers, Michael and John. Even if they lost the next to a Stackstown birdie, they came good again over the closing two holes. Doran played a glorious pitch and run to within inches of the cup at 17 to level again level the proceedings before the greatest drama of all ensued at the superb 217 yards par three 18th.

Magennis’s tee shot pulled up a couple of yards short of the green and John McDermott’s missed four yards or so to the right. Doran chose a putter and judged the pace and line beautifully and was waving the putter high in the air well before the ball dropped into the cup. To rub salt in Stackstown wounds, Michael McDermott’s perfect little chip hit the hole but stayed out to leave the Banbridge pair victors by one hole.

The Dubliners had no great reason to be concerned at that point as Mark Campbell and Liam Ryan were two ahead of Ciaran McAleavey and Rory Leonard with five to play. However, Campbell pulled his two iron tee shot out of bounds at the 14th to increase the pressure on Stackstown, even though they retained their one-hole advantage to the fateful 18th.

Once again, it proved their undoing. Leonard’s tee shot landed uncannily close to where Doran had holed for his vital birdie a half hour or so earlier, while Campbell’s finished to the right of the green.This time, Stackstown ran up a four as Campbell missed from six feet and then Leonard hit the target from the same distance. Cue champagne bottles spurting forth their contents over players, spectators and pressmen!

Cork’s vast experience was of little use in the semi-finals when Stackstown gained the upperhand early on and never relinquished their grip. The McDermotts won by four holes against Pat Lyons and Mark Ford and Campbell and Ryan defeated Tom Cleary and Gary O’Flaherty by three. Banbridge showed what they were capable of when disposing of Connemara by 4 holes.

It was a day of good and bad news for the two Tipperary clubs who qualified for Lisburn. Clonmel looked a formidable force as they whipped Castlerock without losing a match in the semi-final of the Junior Cup while Thurles were edged out by Royal Tara in the Pierce Purcell Shield.

Billy Hewitt got them off on the right road when winning on the 17th against Pearse McNickle and after that the result was never in any doubt as Gavin Smyth and Billy McEvoy were always in control against John Ferris and Norman Cowan, both matches finishing on the 13th green. Niall O’Reilly also came through for Clonmel who now meet Skerries in this morning’s decider. The north Dublin club were fully extended by Loughrea and didn’t clinch it until David Murray pipped Gareth Dallas at the first tie hole.

Thurles went down by 3-2 in a thriller against Royal Tara. Both teams had two matches in and it looked good for Royal Tara when Ger Toher and Joe Mitchell stood two up with two to play against Michael Craddock and John McGrath. However, Thurles won the 17th and really piled on the pressure when McGrath hit a cracking four iron to fifteen feet at the splendid closing hole, a par three of 214 yards. Toher refused to be rattled and knocked another four iron to around twenty feet and that was sufficient to give Royal Tara a half in three and their place in the decider.

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