Another successful and dramatic week at the GUI Cups and Shields finals ended in style last Saturday at Carton House when Co Sligo were crowned AIG Senior Cup champions for the fifth time.
Their 19th hole victory over 2012 winners Castle GC in the final match for the blue riband of Irish men’s club golf took the Senior Cup back to Rosses Point for the first time since 2013, and made amends for the Connacht powerhouse’s defeat to Tramore in the 2014 final.
Yet for both champions and contenders alike at the week-long festival, staged for the third of a four-year run at Carton House, the national finals provided much pause for thought and a commitment to make a return journey for the 2017 deciders in 12 months.
For Monkstown’s team manager Pat O’Keeffe, a narrow defeat to Co Sligo in the Senior Cup semi-final underlined the need to keep the production line of young golfers rolling at the Cork harbourside club.
The Munster champions lost 3.5 to 1.5, victims of some superb play by the seasoned campaigners from Connacht, and O’Keeffe said: “We did well to get out of Munster but when you look at the competition up here, the likes of Sligo, who’ve won the All-Ireland and been in two finals in the last four years; Shandon Park, who’ve won more Senior Cups than anyone else, you know we did fantastically well and we’re very proud of the lads.
“They put up a tremendous effort, fought hard and that’s the way it goes. It was going to be 3-2 every day of the week and unfortunately for us we were on the wrong side of it.
“The support from the club has been fantastic and we’re putting a lot into the juvenile section and that’s what you have to do to get a run out of players. We’re happy with our squad and these fellas should be even more determined to be back next year.”
Likewise for the clubs that tasted All-Ireland success last week, with Nenagh’s Tony McCann hoping his team’s Pierce Purcell Shield victory over Castlebar on Friday can provide the foundation for his younger golfers to gain success in the lower handicapped competitions.
“We’ve some senior people who say they’re retiring now, but we have some good young players there that are capable of moving on to Jimmy Bruen or maybe Junior Cup, Senior Cup, in the years to come. We hope to progress in that direction.
“There’s a lot of young golfers in the club that are really good, who are improving handicap levels. The numbers have increased dramatically over the last number of years with the result we have players playing off plus handicaps, around zero, one and two, so we’re expecting we’ll get other pennants or cups in the future.”
McCann credits the level of coaching and the commitment to developing junior golf at Nenagh, with juvenile membership numbering around 50 boys and girls.
“The coaching end of it, we encourage young people from the locality to come and play in the club and our professional Eanna Jones has helped out a lot in the last number of years and we have members of the committee, both ladies and gents, that have encouraged young people to play and it begins to pay off when you’re doing that.”
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