AFTER the drama and tightness of last year’s finish in Stackallen, hopes are high that we will see something similar in the 2015 staging of the National Gents Senior Strokeplay Champion in Cunnigar this Sunday. Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor takes a closer look at the 80 competitors who will be teeing off in Dungarvan.
IT really could have been won by any of the closing players last year on the last nine holes it was so tight. All the history books will ever show though is that Liam O’Donovan was the eventual winner with a chip to set up a par on the last hole that seemed unlikely on first glance. Bar a Catalan Open success back in April, it hasn’t been quite the most successful of years so far in 2015 for the Bruff player but he enters this Sunday in much the same way he did in recording his success in Stackallen last year.
The player who finished second in that dramatic conclusion has arguably shown the greater form as Irish No 1 John Walsh has not only retained the National Matchplay title he had won prior to last year’s event but has also claimed the Munster Strokeplay title in Riverdale last month. Certainly that is the sort of form the Collins player will want to draw on in his attempt to become only the third man in history alongside fellow Corkonians Mick Forrest (1976) and Ray Murphy (2006, 2007 and 2013) to win the Day and Donnelly Cups in the same year. Murphy himself tees off in the first session and will be hoping to set the pace for the others as the day develops.
The third place finisher in last year’s nail biter in Stackallen, John Ross Crangle, enters with a Leinster Matchplay title to his name and a second place finish at the Provincial Strokeplay in Enniscorthy last month behind his Loughlinstown’s club-mate Hubert Kelly. While Kelly is not in action this weekend, Crangle has some of his other club-mates making the south-eastern journey this weekend namely Thomas Mason, Gary Healy and Eoin Mithen. With no players from the host club qualified, it is left to the Tramore club to fly the flag for Waterford on Sunday with Eddie Hennessy, Kevin Kirby and Daniel Sullivan the three players from the host county amongst the field. Hennessy won the Waterford Strokeplay at Sunday’s venue and he is one of eight County Strokeplay Champions who came through qualifying to make it here. These include Conor McCarthy (Kerry), Ian Dillon (Kildare), Kieran Earls (Limerick), Irish Open holder Eamon Gibney (Meath), Laurence Maher (Offaly), Chris Gallagher (Dublin) and Bryan Delaney (Cork).
2009 winner Delaney has been one of the form players of the year so far with John Walsh the one to deny him in both the National Matchplay and Munster Strokeplay successes in recent months. The two third place finishers in the Provincial Strokeplays, Cement’s Sean Goggin (Leinster) and Deerpark’s Damien Fleming (Munster) are both in action on Sunday along with a number of former winners. After watching everything from the sidelines at his home course last year, three time winner Sean Downes of Stackallen returns to the front line on Sunday where he tees off alongside Ian Dillon. 2004 winner Darren Collins of St Annes tees off with Tullamore’s Lorcan Bracken while 2003 victor William Buckley Jnr of Erry tees off in the very first two ball on Sunday morning with Clare Road’s Martin Fawl.
1995 winner Chris Scannell tees off in the third pairing with Eddie Hennessy as two time winner Anthony Malone of Lucan tees off just before midday in the second session with Kilbeggan’s Ronan Whelan. Some other names to watch out for this weekend include Bruff’s Thomas Hanly, Munster Senior Matchplay winner in Rosscarbery, Deerpark’s Jason O’Brien, Munster Intermediate Matchplay Champion at the same venue who was close to doing the double in the Strokeplay event a month later. Raffeen Creek’s Shane Murphy meanwhile nearly knocked John Walsh out of the National Matchplay in Lakeside and is a former National Intermediate Strokeplay Champion. Stephen Shoer of Riverdale is another former winner of that particular honour (2008) in action this weekend.
In terms of trying to predict an eventual winner, the fact Cunnigar is a lesser travelled course for many of the circuit, due to geography as much as anything else, might even matters up somewhat and potentially give us a new name on the Donnelly Cup. The odds don’t favour that particular winner being a Leinster one however as one has to go back to 1999 when Kilbeggan’s Niall Cuffe won in Fermoy for the last time a Leinster player won this Championship in the southern province. All the Leinster successes since have come within the province itself and the winning players’ own county at that.
Records are made to be broken as we all know but a Munster win is the safe bet in advance of Sunday. We hope that you will be able to join us, either in person or online, to see how it all pans out.
We wish everyone a safe trip to Dungarvan this weekend and updates will be available both on our website and across our social media platforms through the weekend.
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