Five national green pennants will be played for over the next four days at Carton House in Co. Kildare, the final renewal of a four-year run at the home of the governing body for men’s golf in Ireland. And the Barton Shield, the foursomes competition for two pairs of scratch players will provide plenty to whet the appetite for this festival of interclub golf.
Both of last year’s finalists are back for a second consecutive year with Warrenpoint defending their title and Galway, also Senior Cup semi-finalists this week, out to avenge their defeat of 12 months ago with the last-four draw keeping them apart and keeping alive the possibility of a rematch in Thursday’s decider.
Tralee and Leinster champions Castle, Senior Cup runners-up to Co. Sligo in 2016, may have something to say about that with the Kerry club’s team manager Paul Hughes confident enough in the depth of his panel to field a player against Galway who has not yet participated in this year’s competition.
Former Irish boys international Rory Hill, 21, has played his way onto the semi-final team during practice this week and will partner Tralee anchor Fergal O’Sullivan against Galway’s Ronan Mullarney and Liam Power in the second match of the contest, which will be opened by Darren O’Sullivan and Eoghan O’Donnell against Galwegian veteran Joe Lyons and Luke O’Neill.
“When we met four months ago at the start of the campaign, I said ‘guys, this isn’t about established pairings, this is about a panel and we’ll see how we get on,’” Tralee team manager Hughes said. “We’ve shuffled the team all the way through and mixed up the pairings and we’re doing the same again here.
“Rory Hill hasn’t played in any of the qualifiers or the Munster semi (against Cork GC) or final (against Castletroy) but came out in practice and played his way onto the team.”
Hughes is acutely aware of the challenge Galway pose.
“When you get to this stage there are no mugs and Galway are also down for the Senior Cup, they were out practicing behind us today and they have a big panel and it’s going to be quite a match.
“They’ve a point to prove after last year and a guy like Joe Lyons, he’s been there, done that and bought the t-shirt but from our perspective our pairings are very comfortable with each other and quite happy to go mano y mano, even though they’re aware of the calibre of the Galway team.”
Lyons may be vastly experienced having helped win the Barton for Galway in 2007 but he remains hungry for success.
“We’re hopeful and if we turn up on the day we’re capable of beating anyone,” Lyons said.
“If we don’t go home with a green pennant this week be it Barton Shield of Senior Cup we’ll be very disappointed.”
Tralee v Galway (Tralee names first) Darren O’Sullivan & Eoghan O’Donnell v Joe Lyons & Luke O’Neill; Fergal O’Sullivan & Rory Hill v Ronan Mullarney & Liam Power.
Castle v Warrenpoint (Castle names first) Jack Walsh & Alan Lowry v Stephen Coulter & Paul Reavey; Alex Gleeson & Robert Moran v Colm Campbell Jnr. & Ryan Gribben