THE greater experience of a well-balanced Galway team proved just too much for the West Waterford youngsters in Saturday’s final of the Bulmers Irish Senior Cup at Tullamore.
Joe Lyons, Eddie McCormack and Dave Scully were central to the club’s first success at Enniscrone in 2006 and all played key roles again. Team captain Dermot Caulfield also demonstrated his tactical acumen by moving key man and former West of Ireland champion Lyons from number one to five and he duly delivered the goods with crucial wins in the semi-final against Laytown & Bettystown and West Waterford in the decider.
It will remain a moot point as to whether the Dungarvan side might have gone all the way had they not been deprived of the services of international Seamus Power who was unable to gain a release from his university in the US.
Their team had an average age of 20 with Mark Shanahan the eldest at 27. He led the team quite superbly from the first day and when he shook hands with Dave Scully on the 16th green on Saturday, he had registered his seventh win in as many Senior Cup outings.
It is a remarkable achievement by any standards and makes his exclusion from the Munster team that picked up the ‘wooden spoon’ in last month’s Interprovincial Championship all the more mystifying.
“I like leading from the front in the hope of going a couple up and giving a boost to the team,” said long-hitting left-hander Shanahan.
“Reaching the final has been a massive story for us as this must have been one of the youngest ever teams to go out in the Senior Cup. It began with one of the guys making his mark and the others thinking, I want to be as good as him. The Spratt family (owners of the golf course) always pushed for the juniors rather than relying on the older people.”
The pride all at West Waterford feel in the youngsters who went so far is perfectly understandable and surely more will be heard of them. However, much the same should apply to Shanahan, who packed up the game for two years in his early 20s because he felt he was getting a raw deal from various selection committees.
Little seems to have changed since his return, though his talent has always been apparent. He played brilliantly through the Tullamore finals, shooting seven birdies in a 5 and 4 demolition of L & B’s Padraig Rafferty in the semi-final before disposing of Scully with relative ease in the final.
And if ever there was one for the future, it has to be 16-year-old Gary Hurley who showed outstanding maturity in coming from three down after fourteen against former Irish Close finalist Eddie McCormack to stand on level terms after 19 holes.
Philip Spratt, a couple of years older than Hurley, turned one up on Damien Coyne before eventually losing on the 18th and Galway’s victory was assured when Damien Glynn defeated David Curran.
There was no denying the merit of their success. After a century of hard effort and nothing to show for it, Galway have in recent times discovered the knack of winning Senior Cups.
Hopefully, West Waterford will be seen again many times in the later stage of the tournament and most would also like to see the host venue measure up to the standards achieved by Tullamore. Their course was in absolutely immaculate condition, especially the greens, and it all looked a veritable picture in the favourable weather conditions over the four days.
Bulmers Irish Senior Cup final. Galway 3 ½, West Waterford 1½ (Galway names first). Dave Scully lost to Mark Shanahan 3/2; Eddie McCormack halved with Gary Hurley; Damien Coyne bt Philip Spratt 1 hole; Damien Glynn bt David Curran 5/4; Joe Lyons bt Philip Walsh 2/1.
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