A FACELIFT for the National Ladies Matchplay this year sees the creation of two events, a Gross section to maintain the traditional battle for the Elvery Cup and a Nett Section to take account of the different abilities of Ladies players in the game now. Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor takes a look at both grades ahead of this weekend in Tullamore.
No previous tournament form guide to go on here in this inaugural event as the sense of unpredictability about proceedings, particularly with the possibility of shots involved, does make form some sense of intrigue in advance. There are players with success at provincial and national level in recent years but how they fare with a lot more eyes and ears on them will be something they will all have to adjust to.
Fresh from another win at the Munster Mixed Foursomes Elaine Quinn will have the honor of the first tee-shot as she takes on Ann Sweeney from St Bridgets. Regardless of the outcome of that there will a Tipperary and indeed a Riverdale player in the Quarter-Finals as sisters Margaret and Liz Forde square off in the second match. Margaret was a double Munster and National Junior Strokeplay winner last year and will want to scale the same heights in 2018 but how much sibling rivalry affects proceedings will be interesting to see.
The next two matches will guarantee at least one Leinster player in the Semi-Finals with Margaret Connelly of Trim taking on Catherine Smith of St Bridgets as Catherine’s Kilcullen club-mate and former National 0-55’s Junior Strokeplay winner Dina Dillon will take on Audrey Donnelly from MacBride. The bottom section meanwhile sees former National Junior Ladies Strokeplay winner Sarah O’Neill of Collins take on the player who won the Munster Mixed Foursomes in the same year of 2014 in Tralee’s Lisa O’Connor. A second all Tipperary clash between but this time it’s Lakeside vs. Riverdale as Josie McCormack takes on Catherine Dunne.
Local eyes will all be on the next match as Tullamore stalwart Annie Galvin will take on Lucan’s Dora Keane with Dora’s Lucan club-mate in Evelyn O’Gorman in the last of the First Round matches as she takes on Leinster Mixed Foursomes winner Catherine Dillon with the female element of the Provincial Mixed Foursomes winning pairs both starting and finishing the opening round as a result of the draw.
Again the sense of the unknown and how players respond, particularly those who make it to Monday, will add a degree of suspense to it all.
WHETHER a reduced field makes for a more competitive Championship will be answered this weekend but certainly you feel there will be little easing into the feel of the weekend like other years. Monday is now the most demanding day with two matches as there will be only one round each on Saturday and Sunday before we get to the last four.
Ger Ward will face fellow Dubliner Phil Condron at the start of her quest for a three-in-a-row. Condron won’t be overawed by the challenge of facing the Irish No 1 with two Leinster Strokeplay titles won by the Lucan player in the last four years. Indeed Dublin could well be guaranteed a Semi-Finalist after the First Round if National O-55’s Intermediate Strokeplay winner Maree O’Toole gets the better of 2015 National winner over the same grade in Mary Quinn of Lakeside. Ger Holland (2016 Semi-Finalist) and Sheelagh Elmes will want to extend it further and make it an all Dublin Semi-Final as they face Helen Wynne of Erry and Breda White of Tipperary Hills respectively.
The meeting of Elmes and White is arguably the pick of the First Round, White having had some success on the continent recently at the World Seniors Championship while Elmes remains a seasoned campaigner at this level. 2016 Runner-Up Eleanor Walsh faces some local opposition in the form of Denise Pyke, one you sense she will not underestimate in her hopes of going deep again this year. Then we come to Margaret Hogan. Much has already been written about her success and longevity in the game stretching back to the 1970’s but despite not featuring prominently on the national stage in recent years she will be a massive threat around her own track.
Pauline Balfe of Old County is her opponent in the First Round as Kildare’s interest in this section this year is solely on the last two matches. 10 years on from her sole success at this level Tara Dillon hopes to mark that particular milestone this year as she faces Fermoy’s Sarah Byrne in the First Round. Last but by no means least we have Chrissie Byrne. Two years without a National Singles title will feel like a famine for one of the Ladies game’s greats. Her campaign this year sees her face off against RGSC’s Louise Grace in the First Round.
So will it be three-in-a-row, a local success or something unexpected we see in Arden this weekend. The list of potential winners might not be long but knock-out does thrown up surprises along the way!
Tomorrow: We preview the Gents Championship this weekend.
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