CONTINUING our build-up to this weekend’s National Inter-County Championships in Douglas, Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor previews the Gents B and Ladies events in the following piece.
Four counties take part this year in the battle for the Eamon Birchall Cup with last year’s winners and runners-up respectively, Clare and Waterford, heading the field. The Banner County had seven shots to spare over the Decies last year in the first staging of the event (in this guise) in Tullamore after both counties had been level pegging after the first day of play. Clare have five of the victorious side from last year in their ranks again in Douglas with Billy Griffin replacing last year’s team captain Declan Sheedy. Marty Fawl and Martin Walsh along with Niall Seery, Ger Hanrahan and Kenneth Kerin return to action this year.
Waterford will be confident of reversing matters this year however having finished ahead of Clare in the Munster Inter-County in Lakewood last month. Like Clare they have five of last year’s side lining out with Ian Flynn replacing Robbie Walker in this year’s line-up alongside Billy Aspel, Brian and Noel Farrell, Eddie Hennessy and Daniel O’Sullivan. Longford missed out on countback for third place last year to Galway and they head to Douglas with a team made up of three Burkes and three Comiskey’s as Anthony, Richard and Roy Burke along with Declan, Noel Snr and Noel Jnr represent the West Midlands County. Richard Burke has been the runner-up in both the National Junior Strokeplay and Leinster Junior Matchplay events this year giving the team some good competitive experience.
Kilkenny make a welcome return to the inter-county scene following an appearance in the recent Leinster Intermediate Inter-County Championships in Castletown. They are represented by Martin Brennan, Mark Comerford, Dickie Dreeling, Michael Keogh, Kevin Know and Liam O’Hara as they will hope for a good showing when they head down to Douglas this weekend.
SIX counties will battle it out for the title this weekend as the four most recent winners of the event all return for this year’s staging. Kildare ended a six year wait for a National title last year in Tullamore with victory over Dublin and they have the main core of their side back with Chrissie and Marian Byrne, along with Tara Dillon, Mary Donnelly and Mairead O’Toole all donning the Lilywhite colours again as Rose Kelly takes Margaret Keogh’s place in this year’s line-up. As is tradition they will start out Saturday in the final pairings with the host county Cork who despite having home advantage enter without a competitive warm-up due to there being no senior Munster Inter-County event this year. Cork are represented by Una Brosnan, Sarah Byrne, Vera McCarthy, Mary Murray, Linda O’Donovan and Eleanor Walsh with Eileen O’Riordan Murphy the team sub and Margaret O’Riordan the team’s non-playing captain.
Cork won the last time the Inter-County was played in the Rebel County back in St Annes in 2010 and followed up on this with victory in Enniscorthy back in 2012. 2013 winners Tipperary are paired with last year’s bronze’s medallists Offaly. The Faithful County return with three of last year’s side in the form of Tracey McGrath, Denise and Lauren Pyke with Amy Galvin making her first appearance in the National Inter-County alongside Christine McCarthy and Ger Ryan. The Ladies event starts with the pairing of Dublin and Louth with the Metropolitan Ladies hoping that they can turn two consecutive Leinster titles into a first National success since 2011 when they won on home turf in Portmarnock.
Beating Kildare by a narrow margin in Castletown recently will give them hope as well as the good showings of Portmarnock duo Ger Ward and Sheelagh Elmes so far this year. Glenda Hoey, Siobhan Keely, Maree O’Toole and Linda Thomson make up the Dublin line-up in their quest for a successful raid down south with Louth hoping to build on a recent third place finish at the Leinsters. Mary Agnew, Noeleen Bedford, Jean Cooney, Concepta Maddick, Carol Martin and Anne O’Rourke make up the Louth line-up with the honour of the first two tee-shots on Saturday going to whoever tees off first for the county.
The Ladies play the majority of their event on Saturday with the 36 hole Scotch Foursomes followed by the 18 hole Singles on Sunday. Certainly it means that the margin for error is a lot less than it will be on Sunday when it comes down to the crunch.
Tomorrow: We complete our preview pieces with a look at the battle for the Anchor Cup.
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