THIS year marks the 70th staging of the National Matchplay Championships with its legacy going all the way back to 1946. The Gents will get proceedings underway at 10am on Saturday as per usual and Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor takes a look at how matters shape up ahead of defending champion John Walsh getting the show on the road.
THERE will be a great buzz as every come 10am on Saturday morning as the latest instalment in the battle for the Day Cup gets underway. While the draw might not have produced some of the jaw dropping openers of previous years, there still is plenty of potential for the tournament to catch fire as the weekend progresses. John Walsh gets it all underway with a meeting against a very much unknown Richard Bunyan from Listowel. Bunyan does have experience of victory in Matchplay having won the Kerry Junior title back in 2010 but this will be a totally different level for him come tee-off.
The last time Walsh was the defending champion going into the event (Lucan in 2003), the event was won by CPM’s Darren O’Reilly and the Dubliner is action this weekend himself in the bottom half of the draw facing another Listowel player in the form of Monty Galvin. Six time winner Ray Murphy will be the final of the 32 Gents matches to tee off on Saturday afternoon when the St Annes player faces Laytown’s Dom Scully. There is a possibility of a mouth-watering Second Round match should 2011 winner and last year’s runner-up, Damien Fleming of Deerpark overcome Gerry Coyne of Lough Owel. 2012 winner Kevin McCarthy of Rocklodge faces McDonagh’s Joe Ronan, a semi-finalist from two years ago at Lucan. 2010 victor Chris Scannell has arguably got the hardest draw of the former winners as he will take on recently crowned Munster Matchplay Champion, Thomas Hanley of Bruff in what could be a very close encounter.
Three time winner Sean Harkins meanwhile is in the top half of the draw and faces an interesting young prospect in Douglas’ Cian Morrison, a player that has impressed in the Juvenile ranks in recent years. Speaking of the recent Provincial Matchplays, two of the Gents winners from Leinster will be venturing to Templemore this weekend. After winning his third successive crown at senior level, Loughlinstown’s John Ross Crangle will hope that this might be the weekend that he lands an elusive national honour. Getting to the Final of this event will be his first task however and Dean Grannell of St Pats will be a formidable opening challenge for Crangle. The player he defeated in the Leinster decider, fellow Dubliner Jim Judge Jnr of Erins Isle, is also in action in Lakeside this weekend and his First Round opponent is Ché Maher from last year’s hosts Parteen.
The other Leinster Matchplay winner involved is Martin Carter of Collinstown who won the Intermediate grade in St Bridgets. He faces another Martin, Keohane of Bruff, in the First Round while the man he defeated in the Leinster Final, club-mate Darren Reilly is also competing this weekend taking on former National Intermediate Strokeplay Champion Shane Murphy of Raffen Creek. Michael Buckley of Collinstown is another player from the Westmeath club to have qualified; RGSC’s Junior Smith is his First Round opponent. In terms of the hosts Lakeside, they have three representatives as well. Much of the focus will be on Paul O’Brien, former finalist in this event back in 2007, as he will take on Athgarvan’s Jason Meehan in the First Round. Michael Fennell and Ronan Loughnane are the other two players from the host club taking part. Fennell has a pretty tough draw in reigning Irish Open Champion Eamon Gibney of Castletown while Loughnane faces Liam Myers from St Annes.
Beyond the hosts, some of the other players from the Premier County taking part this weekend include Riverdale’s John O’Meara playing St Annes’ Ian Leech, Larkspur Park’s Shane Hoare plays Tullamore’s Gerard Palmer while there is a possibility both of Tipperary Hills’ qualifiers, Anthony Culhane and Munster Strokeplay Champion James Ryan, could face each other in the Second Round but that depends on whether they can beat McBride’s Padraic Sarsfield and Lucan’s Chris Gallagher respectively first. Easier said than done! Other matches of interest include, 2001 National Strokeplay Champion, John Cahill of Fermoy taking on Ryston’s Darren Keogh while the winner of the 2009 National Strokeplay, Bryan Delaney of ESB plays Aengus Coughlan of Erry. The most recent winner of the National Strokeplay, Liam O’Donovan plays in the final match of the morning session against Paul Tobin of St Patricks.
The match between Kieran Earls of Parteen and Tralee’s Jason O’Regan should arouse plenty of interest amongst the Munster fraternity, a similar interest for those from Leinster with the meeting of St Bridgets’ Ian Dillon and Old County’s Stephen Murray. Last year’s National Juvenile Strokeplay Champion Charlie Morrissey (Raffen Creek) makes his senior debut with a match against Barry McQuillan of Seapoint while St Annes’ representative of five players in the event is completed with Brian Barry taking on European Strokeplay Champion Ian Farrelly of Bellewstown while Donal Duggan plays Ryston’s Willie Fitzgerald.
In terms of Offaly representation, there is one all club tie as Erry club-mates Joe McGrath Jnr and Sean Buckley do battle while Tullamore’s Darren O’Connell plays Ray Murphy’s conqueror from last year, namely Eoin Walsh of Collins. Darren’s Tullamore club-mate Anthony Galvin will take on Old County’s George McGreal. The other two First Round games see Clare’s sole representative Ger Hanrahan of Cill Na Mona take on Erins Isle’s Jason Larkin while the third Erin’s Isle representative this weekend Paul Nolan takes on the fourth Ryston representative in the Gents event, namely Pat Norton.
So there you have it, these are the 64 players bidding for the Gents title this weekend. Come 6pm tomorrow we will be down to 32 while on Monday morning we will be down to the Final Four after the gruelling schedule that is Sunday at the National Matchplay. We should know the eventual winner something between 3 and 4pm on Monday afternoon when the curtain comes down on what hopefully will be a memorable weekend.
We wish all 96 players and those travelling to Lakeside this weekend, the very best of luck and a safe journey. Updates will be available throughout the weekend both on our website as well as our social media platforms.
We would like to offer our sympathies this morning to our former Vice-President Dan Cronin (Kilmichael) on the death of his mother Tess. Reposing from 7pm tonight in St Colman’s Church, Macroom. Rosary at 8pm. Funeral tomorrow after 1pm Requiem Mass to St Colman’s Cemetery, Macroom.
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