AS 117 Ladies prepare to descend on Fermoy for this weekend’s National Ladies Strokeplay Championships, they do so on a course renowned for major competitive action which will see 54 holes (and maybe more) needed to decide the eventual winners in the three competitions over both days. All three competitions will be played off Scratch this year but the possibility of playing the Intermediate and Junior competitions off handicap for 2015 is being considered. Let’s now take a more in-depth look at proceedings at the Cork venue.
The most interesting thing about the Junior entries upon first glance is that there are only three Leinster competitors in the field namely Esther Doyle and Theresa O’Keeffe from Ryston in Kildare and Mildred Kelly from Custume in Westmeath. The other 30 entries are from three Munster clubs namely Cork, Tipperary and Waterford with the host club providing five entrants namely Noreen Ryan, Terry Cleary, Mary Morrissey, Michelle Flynn and Caroline O’Flaherty. Flynn has won a Munster Girls Strokeplay title in recent years but the field also includes the top three from last Sunday’s Munster Junior Ladies Strokeplay in Ballinlough namely Geraldine Hanrahan from the aforementioned club, Mairead Manning from St Stephens and Stella Kinsella from Cunnigar who will all be confident following their exploits last week.
Indeed the Ballinlough and Cunnigar clubs are well represented in the field with eight entries for the Waterford club and seven for the Cork club. Maria Kerr from Rosscarbery tees off in the first two-ball with Collins’ Sarah O’Neill and will be one of the early fancies while the Tipperary challenge is like to be held by Tipperary Hills’ Jacinta Nugent and Lily O’Brien. The Top 8 after the first 36 holes will qualify for the Last 18 holes of the competition later on in the day. Since 2007 the title has been split between the two provinces 4-3 in favour of Leinster players and every second year since then it has been swapped between the two provinces. If that trend were to continue then it would point to a Munster victory and the numbers are certainly in the favour of it being so on Saturday.
A noticeable feature of the Intermediate field is the amount of former National Junior Strokeplay Champions in it. Six former winners (five out of the last eight) of the Junior competition are here, namely Bridget Shelley (Lakeside, 1992) Shandon’s Mary Fullam (2006), Mary Quinn from Lakeside (2008), Kilbeggan’s Aoife Carton (2009) and the two most recent members of the Junior competition Ailish Sexton from the hosts (2012) and Lauren Pyke from Tullamore, last year’s winner. Bridget is also a former champion in this competition have won it two years ago in 2012. All eyes will be on reigning National Girls Champion Una Brosnan from Claycastle however as she looks to add to the Munster Intermediate title that she won in Ballinlough last Sunday. The corresponding winner in Leinster is amongst the field as well with Mary Donnelly making the trip down from Ryston with a good deal of confidence following her own success in Lucan last weekend.
The host club have a total of 13 entries including the aforementioned Ailish Sexton with two players from the club starting and finishing the 36 hole proceedings respectively namely Catherine Waters and Norma Buckley. In between Breda Kennedy, Kathleen O’Hara, Nicole Burke, Jean Clancy, Geraldine O’Keeney, Frances Tobin, Angela O’Connor, Bridget Noonan, Nell McCarthy and Theresa O’Keeffe along with Sexton will fly the flag for the club. Other names that could come into the mix include Dubliners Glenda Hoey and Carol Tracey (both RGSC), Lucan’s Siobhan McDonnell and Miriam Salmon (Glenville) along with Cork duo Patsy O’Donovan (Collins) and Linda O’Donovan (Ballinlough). Linda along with Bridget Shelley and Esther Martin from Ryston (2005) are former winners of this event amongst the field with Linda having won back-to-back titles in 2003 and 2004. Former NEC Officer Liz Lysaght (Charleville) is also amongst the field.
The Top 10 after the first 36 holes will make it through to the Final 18 on Saturday with hopefully plenty of twists and turns likely before we know who the eventual winner will be.
At the start of the year, we were still awaiting a first Munster winner of a National Senior Singles title in 22 years since Douglas’ Norma O’Brien won this event back in 1992. That particular monkey is gone off the back of the Munster players with Breda Lonergan’s success in Parteen at the National Matchplay and now the challenge will be for the Strokeplay title to come south in 2014 as well. Considering she is an associate member of the club Breda will be fancied to do well here as well but the home contingent of Eleanor Walsh, Sharon Bowes and Sarah Byrne will also be expected to be in the fray come Sunday afternoon. Its 10 years since Sarah won the National Girls title back in 2004 and she will want to mark that milestone this weekend you sense.
It still will be hard to prevent a Leinster winner however, they’ve won nearly everywhere across the country in the two decades up to this year and two of the Byrne sisters have contrasting memories of the Fermoy course. Reigning champion Chrissie won her second National Matchplay title here back in 2006 while Marian will no doubt harbour some regrets from her 1992 experience at the course where she lost a playoff with Sharon Bowes for the National Girls title that year. Speaking of National Girls winners three other former winners of that honour in the last decade are amongst the field namely Hillview’s Michelle McCarthy (2007), Lakeside’s Martha O’Brien (2008) and double winner Claire Keatinge (2009 and 2011). When you add in former National Girls champions in Eleanor, Marian, Margaret Keogh and Tracey McGrath into that haul of previous winners taking part on Sunday into the mix, it does represent a nice link between the past, present and future of the Ladies game.
Getting back to the here and now, some other former winners of the Elvery Cup in the field on Sunday include Portmarnock club-mates Ger Ward and Sheelagh Elmes, Tullamore’s Margaret Hogan, Ryston’s Rose Kelly as well as Breda, Chrissie, Marian and Tracey adding to the rich history of this event. St Bridgets Tara Dillon, National Matchplay Runner-Up, is also likely to be aiming to go one better and add the Strokeplay title to the National Matchplay she won in Glenville back in 2008. Both of the provincial winners from last Sunday will be amongst the field namely Lucan’s Phil Condron (Leinster) and Rocklodge’s Mary Murray (Munster) and it will be interesting to see what their respective confidence levels will be like following their wins last weekend.
Will it be local knowledge or Leinster consistency that decides the winner on Sunday afternoon? With only 10 places on offer for the playoff, it’s likely to be a fiercely competitive affair and hopefully the three grades will provide us with some memories to match those of previous tournaments held in Fermoy.
Updates on proceedings will be available across the PPUI Website, Facebook and Twitter Pages throughout the weekend. We wish everyone travelling down to Fermoy a safe journey.