McDermott’s parting shot

As parting shots go, Gary McDermott’s pitch onto the 18th green at Royal Tara was pretty special as the 2013 AIG All-Ireland Cups & Shields National Finals reached their climax in Meath on Saturday.

Needing to win the holeto grab victory over Rossa-penna’s Mark McDermott and keep Co. Sligo in the hunt for Senior Cup final victory, the Rosses Point golfer was short and right of the green with his approach. He knocked the pitch to four feet to win his singles contest 1 Up and level the overall match at 2-2 with one tie to play in Irish club golf’s blue riband event.

McDermott, 32, decided earlier this year to call his 16-year Cups & Shields career to a halt at the end of this season, and the Irish international’s final act as a team player was to help deliver a fourth Senior Cup title to Co. Sligo, the Connacht champions defeating Ulster’s Rosapenna 3-2 to add to wins in 1996, ‘97 and 2007. It was also McDermott’s second, having played on the victorious ’07 team, with both victories coming under Tom Ford’s captaincy.

“First time is always good but I said at the start of the year this is my last Senior Cup,” McDermott said. “For me it is a nice way to sign off. It’s just getting a bit busy for me over the next few years and I got engaged. There is a good enough nucleus to carry on..”

Rosapenna, led by Frank Casey Jr, had emerged from a perennially strong Ulster section and staged an upset in the national semi-finals on Friday when they beat Leinster top dogs Carton House. The Donegal men had also been in a strong position in Saturday’s final, thanks to Enda Kennedy’s 4&3 win over Sean Flanagan and Casey’s 3&2 defeat of Declan Reidy, completing an outstanding unbeaten run in singles play for the Rosapenna captain with nine wins from nine in this season’s campaign. That gave the Ulstermen a 2-1 lead, Co. Sligo having won the opening tie when Mark Morrissey defeated Donal Boyce 3&1. With the final match between Rosapenna’s Patrick Kennedy and Steffan O’Hara all square through 15 holes, the match between Sligo’s Gary McDermott and his namesake Mark became pivotal and the Connachtman duly delivered to level the match. That left it to O’Hara to complete the victory and make amends for a seven-hole drubbing he and McDermott had suffered in foursomes during Thursday’s Barton Shield final defeat to Clandeboye.

That had ended dreams of a national double but Co. Sligo were not to be denied a fourth Senior Cup win, O’Hara beating Kennedy 2&1.

“We came to win two but one will be a nice return,” McDermott said. “The Senior Cup’s the blue riband, so that’s the one you really want. Definitely, the Barton Shield was a let-down, particularly for myself and Steff, because we were walloped in our match. The two of us won our two (singles) matches so it was nice.”

As Co.Sligo celebrated a fourth Senior Cup, a new name was being etched on the Jimmy Bruen Shield as Killorglin made it a hat-trick of Munster titles at Royal Tara with their 3½to 1½ victory over Ulster’s Tandragee.

It was another nerve-jangler for the Kerrymen, whose club this year celebrates just its 21st anniversary. Killorglin had come from behind and needed extra holes in their semi-final win over Castlecomer, that result inflicting a whitewash of five semi-final defeats on host province Leinster at the Cups & Shields.

And the tide needed to be turned yet again against Armagh’s Tandragee. Killorglin lost the opening contest in the foursomes competition for higher handicappers, then edged in front on the scoreboard to lead the match 2-1. There was still work to be done, though, with Killorglin’s Mike Ashe and John McCarthy rallying from three holes down after five holes to level matters at the ninth and then fall a hole down again to Jeff Forde and Brian Fyffe through 14 holes.

Ashe and McCarthy edged in front at the 16th but a one-hole lead still needed protecting going up the par-five last.

With both teams short of the green, McCarthy, 16, struck the killer blow pitching to 10 feet and piling the pressure on Tandragee, whose pitch from the right fairway fringe came up short. The subesquent putt was missed, with Forde and Fyffe conceding and the celebrations began, the final tie between Killorglin’s Joe Kennedy and Darragh Carmody, the comeback heroes of the previous evening, and Emmet Nixon & Johnny Quinn called in. It was a third title for Munster, Ballybunion won the Junior Cup and Spanish Point the Pierce Purcell.

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