The Connacht champions will go toe to toe with their Ulster rivals over the O’Meara course today (11:30am), thanks to the Tribesmen’s four holes victory over Tralee in the foursomes matchplay contest, which saw Joe Lyons and Luke O’Neill defeat Darren O’Sullivan and Eoghan O’Donnell by one hole before Ronan Mullarney and Liam Power beat Fergal O’Sullivan and Rory Hill by three holes in terrible conditions as rain fell throughout yesterday’s play.
Lyons, a veteran of Galway’s 2007 Barton-winning team, is one of three members of the 2017 panel who experienced a four holes defeat at Warrenpoint’s hands 12 months ago, and also the previous year’s final defeat to Royal Dublin. This is not a three-in-a-row for which to aspire.
“We’ve been down this road, it’s our third year in a row at this,” Lyons said. “We’ve a good team and it’s all on the day, we played pretty well today but we’ll need to play as well, if not better, to win tomorrow.
“There’s three of us from last year but Luke O’Neill is a big addition to us. He partnered me today, he was exceptional and played really well, holed a lot of crucial putts and he’s a big addition.
“We also have Liam Nolan on the squad, who shot 66 and 72 in Galway last week and he pushed us. It’s not just four of us, we’ve seven or eight at this stage, which I think is a big difference to us.” Focusing on the panel as a whole – and Galway have a squad that has also reached the Senior Cup semis) rather than the four players selected to compete, was very much a theme of Canning’s address to the Galway golfers when the newly-minted All-Ireland hurling champion visited the club last Sunday at the request of team managers Gerry Cox and Kieran O’Mahony.
“Joe made a very good point about the Galway hurlers this year, saying that the big thing for them was that the guys in training were pushing them hard. Like, it wasn’t one to 15, the big talk in their dressing room was actually who was making the numbers 16 to 26, who was going to be on the bench for the All-Ireland final.
“Every evening they trained, he said, there was depth there. So, basically, there’s no-one there too comfortable in their position, and we’re even in a position, I don’t know who’s picked for the final yet but we’ve guys on the sidelines who would be willing and more than capable of coming in for any of us.” Mullarney is another Galway golfer to have experienced two straight All Ireland final defeats and he took something different from Canning’s message.
“The crossover was brilliant. He brought up the point that the best comparison he could make (between hurling and golf) was when he was taking a free in hurling.
“He has the same routine for the last umpteen years. He concentrates on his breathing, tosses the sliothar a certain way, spins it a certain way, wants to see a certain flight and that’s exactly what we are thinking about when we are hitting a shot. It was brilliant, nice of him to do that.”
Lyons admitted the opportunity to face Warrenpoint, winners by two holes over Leinster champions Castle, had provided extra incentive for Galway to finally get over the line and end a 10-year Barton Shield drought.
“In one sense we might be a little more motivated given the fact they beat us last year. It’s not that there was any ill feeling or anything, the game was played in great spirit and we know all the guys up there and they’re a nice bunch of lads, but at the same time you’d like to get your own back.”
The defending champions are not short on confidence themselves following their victory over Castle, runners-up in last year’s Senior Cup. The Dublin club won the first match by two holes as Alan Lowry and Jack Walsh beat Stephen Coulter and Paul Reavey but the Ulstermen eased into the final as Colm Campbell and Ryan Gribben thumped Alex Gleeson and Robert Moran by four holes.
“It’ll be really good to do back to backs,” Irish international and 2016 Irish Amateur Open champion Campbell said. “We know Galway are going to be out for revenge tomorrow and they have a very good side but I think if we play to our capabilities we will be very difficult to beat.”
Joe Lyons & Luke O’Neill beat Darren O’Sullivan & Eoghan O’Donnell by 1 hole; Ronan Mullarney & Liam Power beat Fergal O’Sullivan & Rory Hill by three holes.
Stephen Coulter & Paul Reavey lost to Alan Lowry & Jack Walsh by 2 holes; Colm Campbell & Ryan Gribben beat Alex Gleeson & Robert Moran by 4 holes
J Lyons & L O’Neill v S Coulter & P Reavey; R Mullarney & L Power v C Campbell & R Gribben