Not since 2000 has a club won both the Barton Shield and the blue riband Senior Cup in the same year and both Cork GC and Co. Sligo are aiming to emulate Shandon Park’s feat of 13 years ago. There is plenty of incentive for both clubs with the Connacht champions from Rosses Point having achieved the double in both 1996 and 1997 while Munster pennant holders Cork would cap the 125th anniversary of their club’s founding in fine style with a twin victory this week.
Cork captain Vincent Twohig, who manages a side spearheaded by 1998 All-Ireland Senior Cup winner Gary O’Flaherty, will not, however, let his players get too far ahead of themselves ahead of a tough Barton Shield semi-final this morning against Ulster champions Clandeboye, the foursomes competition decided by the aggregate scores of two pairings.
“The first thing we’ll focus on is the Barton Shield and we’ll look no further than for the moment,” Twohig insisted yesterday. “That’s the way we’ve worked so far, concentrate on the present and we’ll let the future look after itself. They’re all in good form. There’s a very good team spirit and they’re all very supportive of everybody else, all playing good golf and trying to better the other guys they’ll be playing, it’s very simple. They’re confident but you have to be practical about it as well. You can’t live on past glories and just because you’ve won Munster doesn’t guarantee you anything, in terms of winning nationals.”
Twohig will send out Mark Ford and Ian O’Flynn as his first pairing of the day against Clandeboye’s Graeme Laird and Lee Crawford in the first foursomes match, with Gary O’Flaherty and John Hickey taking on Colm Murphy and William Russell.
Co. Sligo’s Sean Flanagan and Declan Reidy open their challenge against Leinster champions Rosslare, who send out Gary Collins and Ian Lynch, followed by a match-up between the Sligo pairing of ex-international Gary McDermott and Steffan O’Hara against Mark Mullen and Tony O’Leary.
Sligo go into the week as favourites to lift the Senior Cup and strongly fancied to do the double but McDermott is having none of that, despite his club’s pedigree in the Barton Shield, having won three in a row from 1995 to 1997, and also triumphing in 2006.
“I definitely think we can win both but it’s going to be far from easy and I wouldn’t have us installed as favourites for both either,” McDermott said.
“Cork are going to be extremely tough and they’re in both also and they’re going to be the ones to beat. So we’ve just got to look after our own patch and hopefully it will be good enough on the day.
“The course is in great nick but obviously it’s not the links course we’re used to at home so that might favour Cork a little more ahead of us as it’s more of a parkland layout. But it’s all on the day and matchplay is a funny game. Not always the best team wins and with the Barton Shield, it’s all about how you click with your partner on the day.
“If you get on a bad run, the other guys can make you pay for it, so it’s a very hard one to call, particularly the Barton Shield. Some guys do better in the Senior Cup when they’re on their own but we’re down here to do a job, we’ve a good group of players, and even the younger guys are well experienced in interpros and international stuff too, so it’s a good mix.”
Today’s play also sees the Junior Cup semi-finals played out over five singles matches with Ulster champions Slieve Russell facing 1980 winners Westport from Connacht, followed by 1997 winners Laytown and Bettystown, representing Leinster, against Munster pennant winners Ballybunion.
With both the Junior Cup and Barton Shield champions being decided tomorrow, Thursday’s play will also see the Pierce Purcell Shield semi-finals staged with the higher handicappers doing battle over five foursomes matches. There will be a first time winner crowned on Friday with Rossmore facing Spanish Point in the first semi-final and Claremorris playing Corrstown in the second.
Friday’s Senior Cup semi-finals pit Rosapenna from Donegal against Kildare’s Carton House while Cork face Co. Sligo in the battle of the big guns vying for a place in Saturday’s final.
And the final trophy of the week to get under way at Royal Tara will be the Jimmy Bruen Shield, played with five pairings of players no lower than a six handicap and a minimum combined 17.
Killorglin fly the flag for Munster in the first semi-final against Leinster champions Castlecomer before Athlone face Ulster kingpins Tandragee to decide Saturday’s finalists.
Killorglin, who are captained by Joe Kennedy, progressed to the national semi-finals with a provincial final victory over Lismore with all four Bruen semi-finalists searching for a first victory in the competition.