2014 marks a significant milestone in the 68 year history of the National Matchplay Finals as this is the 20th Anniversary of the twinning of the Ladies and Gents events in Glenville back in 1994. It was a move well received and created a sense of anticipation about the June Bank Holiday Weekend in Pitch & Putt ever since. In this article Linda Thomson (who despite not being involved has kindly agreed to give her thoughts on proceedings) assesses the form of the 29 Ladies who will be taking part in Parteen this weekend.
GETTING the ladies started (as is always the custom) is defending champion Ger Ward, looking for her tenth title overall, from Portmarnock. She will face fellow Dubliner and Inter-County team-mate Pauline Balfe from Old County. Ger as we all know is very experienced in Matchplay and defending her title is going to be in her mind through all her matches. However Pauline is becoming a regular on the senior scene, and has shown great progress in her game through hard work and determination.
The next two ladies to do battle are old friends and club mates from St Bridgets and Kildare namely Tara Dillon (2008 Winner) and Margaret Keogh. Both Ladies are no strangers to the competition, but Tara has started the year well with some wins under her belt that may benefit her around the tricky pitching track. The next match sees a bye, with Caroline Kelly of the E.S.B club thought to Round Two. While it’s disappointing to see Byes in Finals, especially for the person who receives them, Caroline I’m sure will be waiting to see who she will play from the battle between two other county team-mates Ger Holland & Sheelagh Elmes. Sheelagh (Portmarnock, 1983 Winner) got the semi-finals last year while Ger Holland (RGSC) made it to the quarter-finals and you can expect this match will be a good battle to the end. Again pitching will be key for both players, along with concentration.
Next up sees another bye, with Geraldine Edwards (Fairview CY) through to the Second Round. Geraldine would be a very experienced matchplayer and hard to beat. She awaits the winners of Mary Murray and Helen Greagsbey. Mary (Rocklodge) and Helen (Fairview CY) are becoming regular fixtures on the senior scene as both have represented their counties in the last few years. This will be a closely fought match between both to progress to Round Two. Patricia Murphy of Ranges received the last bye, so she will also wait until Sunday morning to meet the winner of Margaret Hogan (Tullamore, five time winner) and Maree O’Toole (Shandon). The match between Margaret and Maree will be one for the spectators on Saturday afternoon. Indeed Margaret has good memories of this course having won the third of her three-in-a-row of National Strokeplay titles in the 1970’s here all of 35 years ago (1979). With many, many (sorry ladies) years of playing between them, this will be one an enthralling contest in my opinion, as I think whoever comes out the winner of this match, as the full opportunity to go very far in the competition….
Next up sees Breda Lonergan (Tipp Hills) and Siobhan Keely (RGSC) do battle. These ladies, come the day, will know there way around this track. This is a great match to follow Margaret and Maree, as it can go all the way and a maybe bit further. Breda like Margaret has form on this course as she won the 1981 Munster Strokeplay here. Both ladies will no doubt be anxious to get into the Second Round. Following hot behind is Breda’s (ahem, old) pal Eleanor Walsh (Fermoy, 1988 Winner) against Paula Nolan (Ballinlough) in an all Cork clash. These ladies have been Inter-County team-mates in the past, and Eleanor will be keen to do well again this year and go the distance this time following her appearance in the final in Claycastle two years ago.
Match 11 has the potential to be something special as it sees the two youngest players in the competition go head to head. Reigning National Girls Strokeplay Champion Una Brosnan (Claycastle) takes on 2012 Munster Ladies Senior Strokeplay Winner Martha O Brien (Lakeside). Both these young ladies have proved they can score low, and there will be a lot of focus on Una in her first National Championship in the adult ranks. Could this be first of many titanic battles between two of the game’s biggest hopes for the future? The next match is between Mairead O’Toole (Poulaphoucha) and Helen Daly (Cill Na Mona). Helen should know the Parteen course quite well as its well within travelling distance for her with plenty of opportunities for practice. Mairead however has proved in the past, she is well capable on the day to bring her A game with her.
Next up sees the experienced and current Irish Open Champion Marian Byrne (St. Bridgets) against Glenda Hoey (RGSC). Glenda is a keen and determined player, and this will be huge experience playing against Marian. Three time winner Marian is full of confidence however going into her favourite event on the back of the Irish Open in Glenville three weeks ago. Siobhan McDonnell (Lucan) vs. Esther Byrne (Fairview CY) meanwhile sees Siobhan make a welcome return to competitive action while Esther continues her many years of entry into the competition. Both need no introduction to each other after plenty of meetings in the Dublin Leagues! Sharon Bowes (Fermoy) vs. Claire Keely (RGSC) has the look of another tight contest. Both are around sometime now on the circuit and will be hoping that their journey to Parteen is not cut short.
The last match of the day sees current Irish No 1 Chrissie Byrne (St. Bridgets) face Patsy O’ Donovan (Collins). Chrissie, with four titles to her name, is the name all want to avoid in the draw! However someone’s got to do it, and not better lady than Patsy to take up the challenge. I’m sure Chrissie will be looking for go one better than last year, but she needs to concentrate on what’s in front of her first. The National Matchplay always makes for great spectating. The best thing about the format is its unpredictability and the surprises it throws up, all of which adds to the excitement. Seven former winners of the event stretching back over 34 years of the competition adds a nice sense of prestige and grandeur to proceedings.
As the rounds move on, more county team-mates, old friends and maybe even family members will do battle to get to the Monday and hold that precious Elvery Cup at the end. In my opinion the name of the potential winner is wide open to discussion this year!
Best of luck to all taking part this weekend.
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