THE waiting is almost over and all the talking and pondering will finally stop tomorrow when the National Matchplay gets underway at 10am. Parteen have worked hard to get ready for this, in adversity at times with the weather, but hopefully it will all work out for them over the next three days and we can all enjoy the very best that Pitch & Putt has to offer in terms of excitement and play. Indeed this is not the only busy Bank Holiday Weekend for the club this year as their own Scratch Cups takes place on the very next one in August!
Early comers to the venue are in for a treat in the top half of the Gents draw with some intriguing ties. Ray Murphy begins the defence of his title against one of only three men to beat him in the competition (Finals or Qualifiers) in the last eight years, Eoin Walsh of Collins. There should be a steady stream of followers for this encounter but it might well be when they reach the 10th hole that many of the spectators turn back and focus their attention on what is arguably the tie of the First Round, namely John Walsh vs. Liam O’Donovan. The World Strokeplay Champion (winner of this event in 2002 himself) has had a good start to the Scratch Cup circuit in his native Cork but the fact that his opponent is a Limerick native and has decades of experience around the track makes this an impossible call at the outset. In truth it’s an encounter good enough to be the decider itself! Parteen’s big hope in Kieran Earls is also in the section and faces Aaron O Droighneain from Glenville in the First Round. How the young player copes with the expectation surrounding his challenge will be key to whether or not he makes it through to the closing stages.
John Cunningham and Anthony Flynn might not have the same degree of expectation as their club-mate Earls but Cunningham is no stranger to success with a number of provincial titles under his belt including a Munster Intermediate Matchplay title on home turf last year. Indeed one unique feature of this competition is that fact that all three of the winning champions from last year’s provincial Matchplay competition at Parteen are taking part this weekend. Cunningham faces Darren O’Connell of Tullamore while Claycastle’s Gary O’Sullivan (senior winner) faces another Offaly player William Buckley Junior of Erry in another interesting match-up. The Junior winner Jason O’Brien of Deerpark faces Louth’s Christopher Murray meanwhile. Returning to Anthony Flynn, he will need all the local knowledge he can muster when he faces 1994 winner Derek Courtney in his First Round encounter. Another Limerick player Michael Curtin of Charleville also takes on a former champion in 2005 winner Darren Collins of St Annes.
Another big First Round meeting in the top half is that of Tralee’s Jason O’Regan and ESB’s Bryan Delaney. O’Regan has reached the Monday of the competition three times in the past while Delaney won the 2009 National Strokeplay title on O’Regan’s home course. There are two all club pairings in the First Round, the first one concerning the St Bridgets club that might be the more novel. Frank Ryan and Ian Dillon will be team-mates the week after Parteen when they represent Ireland in the International Challenge against Catalonia but they are unlikely to be feeling too patriotic when they step up to the tee-box on Saturday and do battle. The other all club affair concerns the Bellewstown club of Meath where European Strokeplay Champion Ian Farrelly will square off against Robert Bissett. Whatever the outcome of both encounters at least members of both clubs are guaranteed a reason to be present in Parteen on Sunday to see the victors in action again. The progress of another Meath player is also sure to attract attention this weekend. Recently crowned Irish Open winner Eamon Gibney of Castletown faces Cement’s George Beardsley and it will be interesting to see how Gibney copes with the expectation that will now follow his progress after his triumph in Glenville.
2011 Winner Damien Fleming gets the afternoon session of the Gents underway with a match against Old County’s Stephen Power. While the Deerpark player will be expected to advance far with more of the big guns in the other half of the draw, he will know not to underestimate the Dubliner following his loss to a surprise package in the form of St John O’Connor of Cork in the First Round in Lucan last year. The number four seed John Ross Crangle of Loughlinstown is unlikely to be looking too far past fellow Dubliner Paul Nolan either as this is a very tough encounter for the reigning Leinster Matchplay Champion to be handed with. Two former champions are also in the bottom half of the draw namely Mark Millar (2000 and 2001) along with Darren O’Reilly (2003) and will be hoping to revisit some of their previous glory throughout the weekend. In all there are eight former winners of the event amongst the high class field with Ray Murphy’s six titles just two behind the combined total of eight titles won between Courtney, Millar, Walsh, O’Reilly, Collins, Chris Scannell (2010 Winner) and Fleming.
In other items of interest, it’s great to see Galway represented in the competition for the first time in seven years as Padraig Conroy from Mellows once again represents the county having last done so in Stackallen back in 2007. He faces Roy Burke from Granard in the First Round. Interestingly the field contains four players who competed at the 1992 National Strokeplay in Parteen. Both Scannell and Noel Joyce from Hillview shot 11 under in the 36 hole tournament to finish fourth and fifth respectively on Countback that year. John Walsh had five under in the same competition but another 11 under par round in the competition was more significant as Liam O’Donovan shot that score to win the Intermediate title the same weekend. The rest of the seven strong Limerick contingent taking part this weekend include Bruff’s Thomas Hanly and club-mate Martin Keohane who play Raffen Creek’s Shane Murphy and Collinstown’s Liam Buckley respectively. Interestingly all the Limerick players are in the top half of the draw meaning an all Treaty County affair in the decider is not a possibility.
This weekend always throws up endless other possibilities however. Ultimately it’s a test of endurance as six 36 hole (and maybe more) matches in the space of three days is the biggest test any Gent could face in their quest for that wonderful little Day Cup. It might well be that a player not mentioned in this preview comes to the fore over the weekend either through an element of surprise or motivation at being left out of the conversation, written off or even slighted! We hope that whether you’re present in Parteen or following proceedings on the web or social media that you enjoy the experience.
It’s one of the jewels in the Pitch & Putt calendar and long may it remain that way!
Schedule of Play
10am: Gents First Round Matches 1-16
12.30pm: Ladies First Round
3pm: Gents First Round Matches 17-32
9.30am: Gents Second Round
12pm: Ladies Second Round
2pm: Gents Third Round
4.30pm: Ladies Quarter-Finals
4.50pm: Gents Quarter-Finals
9am: Gents Semi-Finals
9.30am: Ladies Semi-Finals
1pm: Gents Final
1.45pm: Ladies Final
Updates on the event’s progression will be available both on the PPUI Website via a Live Blog and spreadsheet on the Main Page as well as the Union’s Official Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/officialppui?ref=hl) & Twitter (https://twitter.com/officialppui) Pages.
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