Monkstown banish bitter memories at AIG Munster Senior Cup final

Monkstown closed the book on 12 months of heartbreak as they claimed their provincial pennant with victory in the AIG Munster Senior Cup final at Cork Golf Club.

Munster’s Barton Shield representatives at Carton House next month for the AIG All Ireland Cups and Shields finals will also be from the Rebel county after Cork landed the provincial scratch foursomes title at Little Island on Saturday.

Both Cork and Monkstown have claimed national titles before but for the latter, it has been more than 50 years away from the business end of the Senior Cup.

National champions in 1954 and 1963, Monkstown booked their return ticket by edging past Ballybunion in the semi-finals and then Castletroy in Saturday evening’s Munster decider.

They won both contests 3-2 in the five-man singles matchplay format, backed by huge support from their yellow-clad fellow members.

Nick Moore had beaten Ballybunion’s Peter Sheehan on the 19th hole to seal his club’s passage to the Munster final and a year on from losing 3-2 to Limerick, they were staring another heartbreak in the face as Castletroy’s Andrew McCormack and Mark Campbell took the opening rubbers over Moore and Donal McDonnell to continue their good form having beaten Waterford Castle 3-2 in their semi.

Martin Poucher, originally from Limerick and in his first season with Monkstown having moved to Cork from Dublin, began the fightback, the former Castle clubman beating Jack Ryan 6&5.

Eoghan Long then recorded a similar win over Cian Daly, which left youngest team member Sean Desmond needing to seal his match with Castletroy’s Cian O’Donnell.

Their tie went to the 18th, Desmond in trouble in the trees before an excellent recovery shot to 15 feet from the hole and putt to inside a foot clinched the point.

Team manager Pat O’Keeffe, the former Cork Constitution coach and president, who won his own rugby-related tussle with a Castletroy outfit managed by former Munster Heineken Cup winner Ian Dowling, recognised the narrow margins involved in Monkstown’s pennant success.

“We could have won 5-0 or lost 3-2 in both rounds, it was one of those days,” O’Keeffe said.

“We probably played better than both Ballybunion and Castletroy on the day but they both fought like tigers. We have a very well balanced team, they can all win points and they’re a good mix. They played brilliantly all day.

“Our short game was very good and it added up to a very good team performance.

“To lose last year in the final, 3-2, was heartbreaking. To come out of the Cork section is always difficult and for us to do that last year was a big deal.

“So to come out two years in a row has been an unbelievable achievement. We were so proud of winning in Cork last year, it was just massive in terms of realising we were good enough. We’ve got Martin Poucher in this year and he’s been a huge addition. We had huge support, it was incredible, the club really buys into it and it’s important to us. It was worth that point.”

If Monkstown had supporters to thank then so too did Cork, who credited home advantage on their Little Island layout for helping secure a return to a first Barton Shield national semi-finals since 2013.

Cork, five-time title winners, the most recent of which was in 1990, had beaten old foes Limerick in the semi-final on Saturday morning, Mark Ford and Brian Kelleher beating Pat Murray and Mike Reddan while Gary O’Flaherty and John Hickey overcame Mike O’Kelly and Justin Kehoe for a four-hole combined victory.

Tramore had 2014 AIG Senior Cup-winning team members Paul Flynn and Chris Butler but were missing a third in Robin Dawson, who was returning from Ireland’s Home International hat-trick win in Scotland.

They had nevertheless beaten Tralee by five holes in their semi-final but Cork proved too strong in the final, taking an early lead in both matches and not looking back for a seven-hole aggregate victory.

Ford and Kelleher beat Declan King and Flynn by four holes, while Gary O’Flaherty and John Hickey defeated Butler and John Mitchell by three holes.


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