And after their own share of cups and shields heartbreak, their victory at Carton House last week was made all the sweeter.
O’Donovan and Gorey, along with Muskerry’s other pair Daniel Hallissey and John Waldron, had been together as a team since 2010, and shared the disappointment of missing out on a Senior Cup final three years ago when they lost their semi-final to Portmarnock at Castlerock.
Yet that experience proved to be the catalyst for this success, for in 2014 the Cork golfers fought tooth and nail just to get out of Munster, and dug deep again to first get through a semi-final against Athenry and then the final against Warrenpoint, the Ulster champions that Muskerry’s predecessors in 1953 beat for the club’s previous Barton Shield success.
And boy did it mean the world to them, even for a golfer as honoured as Gorey, a former Ireland international who said his individual successes as boy, youth and senior now paled into comparison with a green pennant for Muskerry.
“It’s better,” Gorey, 35, said. “We were even saying it coming down the fairway, ‘you wouldn’t swap this for anything.’ I’d give back my Ireland stuff, give back the lot, just to make four here [on 18] and get out of here.
“It’s great for Muskerry, I think it’s 61 years — 1953 was the last time there was any senior green pennant won. This group of lads won a Senior Cup in Munster in 2011 — we just didn’t get over the line in the semi-final then against Portmarnock. They were a bit cuter than us but we learned a little bit from that and we were talking about that during the week. It was really panic set in that time  and the word this week was just calm, just stay calm.”
For O’Donovan, 36, glory with Muskerry has been his golfing ambition and priority for 22 years.
“I played senior interpros and I’ve won scratch cups and the like but this was always the dream,” he said. “I was never going to make the senior [international] team, two babies and home, so happy enough. Once you realise you’re not going to be chasing that kind of thing, it’s all for the club, and an All-Ireland, is just fantastic.
“We got close, we got to the All-Ireland semi-final in 2011 but this was our year. Daniel Hallissey held a putt in our third match, a nine-footer on the 19th to stay in it against Mallow. Cork Golf Club had a chip and a putt to beat us on the last in the second round, they didn’t take it. Maybe it’s destiny.”
If anyone was in any doubt as to what it means to win an All-Ireland title in golf, they should take a moment to contemplate the emotions Tramore golfer Alan Thomas expressed after sinking the 10-foot putt that clinched the AIG Senior Cup final at Carton House on Saturday.
He had beaten Co Sligo’s Steffan O’Hara at the 19th hole to secure a 3-2 team victory over the defending champions from Rosses Point and reclaim Irish golf’s blue riband for the first time since 1992 and having called that moment when his 10-foot putt went into the hole as “the proudest moment in my golfing career, without a doubt,” Thomas described the effort involved in winning an All-Ireland.
“We work hard and you don’t play good golf by just turning up. We put babies in the car and drive up to the practice ground and get an hour in while they sleep. We have rows with our wives to go and play and practise and it’s a commitment, but it’s great when you get something out of it.
“It’s well worth it. I have my wife and child and my mum and dad and my brother here. My nephew’s caddying for me and my niece is here. They know what it means to you and I have no problem saying I started roaring crying when I holed that putt. That’s for my family, it’s for the players and their families.
“You have bad days, like I struggled all summer. I wasn’t well all summer and sometimes you wonder if there’s any point. We’ve lost an All-Ireland finals [the 2011 Barton Shield decider against Warrenpoint], I missed the putt in Castlerock and myself and Chris Butler were roaring crying, hugging each other, wondering, ‘will we ever get another chance?’ Any scratch golfer will tell you the Senior Cup is the holy grail.”
So how does a team of Munster golfers get to be champions of Leinster? When their club is just the wrong side of the border, that’s how.
Congratulations to the members of Waterford Golf Club, crowned All-Ireland champions when they lifted the Jimmy Bruen Shield, by beating Munster champions Lisselan at Carton House last Saturday.
Confused? You’re not the only one. Not that it matters to the players and members of Waterford GC, as they continue to celebrate their first Golfing Union of Ireland pennant this week, but this team and club of Munster men happen to play at a course just over the Suir river from Waterford City, in Kilkenny.
“It’s amazing,” says club captain Michael Dollard. “It’s the county border that causes the problems. We are actually in Leinster, even though the club is Waterford and Waterford City-based, but it doesn’t take from the victory, it’s still a Waterford club.”
Last Saturday proved to be quite a day for the county as Tramore lifted the blue riband Senior Cup and Dollard said: “It’s a great day for the south-east and congratulations to them, they’ve been terrific, a great senior team for many, many years. But for us to win the Jimmy Bruen here today, there’s a lot of people here today who’ve been a long time trying to do it, and this is great for them.”
Dollard also paid tribute to Lisselan, the underdogs from Clonakilty, West Cork, who were surprise winners of the Munster pennant having beaten Tralee in the provincial final.
“We got here and won against a strong team, it’s been a great year for them, it’s been very good. They were super, very solid. We were better on the day, there’s no doubt about that, the score reflects that, but it doesn’t take from their achievement.
“It would have been a first time for them as well, so great all round.”
Christopher Carvill turned his back on a career in the business to give professional golf a shot and his decision was given a little validation when the Belvoir Park man landed the Irish PGA Assistants Championship at Nuremore Hotel and Country Club.
Carvill, 27, had begun the third and final round of the championship level in the lead with Neil O’Briain but trailed the Old Conna assistant pro by a shot heading to the 18th tee.
But when O’Briain lost his ball off the tee and holed out for double-bogey, Carvill was only to eager to take advantage, coming through to take the title with a par. Massereene’s Noel Murray finished third after a best of the day round of 67.
“I spent four years in college in North Carolina and then when I returned home I did a Masters degree in Business Development,” Carvill said. “I was weighing up my next move when the head professional at Belvoir, Michael McGivern, offered me the opportunity at the club.
“He knew how much I enjoyed the coaching side of things and knew that I would regret it if I passed up the chance to make it as a professional.”
It is not only Paul McGinley who is the toast of the Grange GC, five-handicapper Conn Buckley has a place in the clubhouse spotlight too. At least until the Ryder Cup takes centre stage right about, well, now.
Grange member Buckley’s claim to golfing fame is his victory in the Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Golf Skills Challenge which was held at the GUI National Golf Academy at Carton House the other day.
Buckley, 43, successfully negotiated seven skills challenges which tested the finalists’ acumen off the tee, out of bunkers, around greens and with the putter.
“I got a short-game lesson from [Grange head pro] Dave Kearney about two to three years ago and I just feel most times now I’ve a fair chance of getting up and down,” Buckley said.
“It’s made a huge difference. I wouldn’t be a prolific golfer but in the short game I know what I’m doing. My short game got me through.” said Buckley.