The Co Waterford club, champions in 1992, have advanced out of Munster as Senior Cup champions for the second time in three years and face first-time Leinster pennant winners Rosslare in today’s first semi-final of the blue riband event, with defending champions Co Sligo putting their title on the line in the second semi against Banbridge.
Tramore have also been down this road before, only to come up agonisingly short. In the Barton Shield final in 2011, with a team including current squad members Chris Butler, Dave Kiely and Alan Thomas, they took Warrenpoint to the final hole before victory slipped from their grasp.
Twelve months later at Kinsale, it was Warrenpoint again who denied them, this time in the Senior Cup semis. Yet team captain Owen Kavanagh says his troops, who have also retained former Waterford hurler Paul Flynn and teenage Ireland senior cap Robin Dawson from that day in Co Cork, will be all the better for their experiences.
“We were in the finals in 2012 and beaten in the Barton Shield final in 2011, so they know what it takes ... and what it doesn’t take,” Kavanagh said.
“When we were beaten in Kinsale it was a match that got away from us in the end but their experience is very good from those last two appearances and it will be in their favour.
“We’ve practised, we’re in good form and it’s just a matter of taking it on from here now.”
Kavanagh said Tramore would likely send out the same line-up of Kiely, Thomas, Butler, Flynn and Dawson that got them out of Munster with the provincial pennant last month at Shannon with a close-run 3-2 final victory over Limerick.
“There’s nothing easy in these things anymore, no matter who you’re playing, because there’s an awful lot of good young kids about the place.”
Tramore have one themselves in Dawson, the 2013 Irish Boys champion who won both his Munster semi-final and final matches in the victories over Doneraile and Limerick.
“This will be his fourth season with us and he’s done very well for himself,” Kavanagh said of Dawson. “He’s a very talented kid and he got his full cap this year for Ireland.
“And he’s in an experienced team who know what it’s all about. There’s a little bit of luck involved in all of this, a putt here or there, but ultimately it takes good golf to win it.”
Kavanagh confessed he was unfamiliar with the challenge Rosslare would pose his players today over the O’Meara course.
“They’re on the other side of the estuary to ourselves but I don’t know too much about them. I do know they have to be a good team to get out of Leinster.”
The Wexford club were surprise qualifiers, having beaten Hermitage in the Leinster finals with a team backboned by Leinster interpro Gary Collins alongside Mark Mullen, Paul Murphy, Tony O’Leary and Ian Lynch, but Tramore will start favourites.
Co. Sligo will be chasing their fifth All-Ireland crown as they defend the title won at Royal Tara a year ago, when Steffan O’Hara holed the winning putt. O’Hara was at it again in this year’s Connacht final, making a 20-foot birdie putt to seal victory over Galway.
Banbridge, who conquered defending Ulster title-holders Rosapenna in the provincial final, will present a stiff challenge and will look to the experienced Jim Carvill, Conor Doran and 2010 West of Ireland champion Rory Leonard to guide them into the finals.
The Jimmy Bruen Shield also gets under way today with a quartet of semi-finalists chasing their first title in the 10-man team foursomes competition for 6-17 handicappers.
Munster champions Lisselan, from west Cork, meet Connacht’s Strandhill in the first semi-final before Leinster champions Waterford GC get their bid under way against Ulster’s Strabane.