OVER 180 players will take part in this weekend’s PJ & Catherine Bell National 0-55’s Championships in McDonagh, Co Kildare as six different winners will be crowned in the Ladies and Gents grades in the heart of the Curragh. Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor takes a closer look at the six different grades this weekend in what is the 15th annual staging of the event inaugurated in 2004.
ALL three Ladies grades as well as the Junior Gents are being played on the opening day in two different ‘Shotgun Starts’ with the Intermediate and Junior Ladies kicking things off at 9.30am on Saturday morning. The presence of National Junior Ladies Strokeplay winner from Collins at the start of the month, Phil Downey, is the first thing that stands out as well as former winner of this event, Catherine Fox of Glenville, winner in 2015 back in Old County. Dina Dillon of St Bridgets is another former winner having won in 2016 in Fermoy with Betty Cody of Loughlinstown a former winner at Intermediate level in the 0’55’s.
McDonagh are represented by PPUI Treasurer Breda Brophy and Moira Behan in the grade as nine of 26 entrants are from Kildare with four from Prosperous, Anne Kelly, Marian McCormack, Monica McGrath and Nora Tierney joining St Bridgets Ann and Gabrielle Sweeney along with Dillon in completing the Lilywhite line-up. Riverdale’s Liz Forde was third last year in Cloghogue in this grade as there are four other Tipperary players involved in Lorraine Creed and Ann Fitzgerald (both Hillview) along with Josie McCormack and Lily O’Brien (both Lakeside). Lucan’s Angela Shanahan is a Mixed Foursomes prize-winner with Bruff’s Margaret O’Donovan a former Munster Junior Strokeplay winner.
The Intermediate grade meanwhile sees last year’s Runner-Up Patsy O’Donovan of Collins return this year as she plays alongside St Bridgets Catherine Smith and Trim’s Margaret Conneely. Antoinette Doyle is the only McDonagh player in this grade as she plays with Bellewstown’s Marie Black and Lakeside’s Frances Ryan. Former winner Mary Sherry of St Bridgets plays in an interesting three-ball with RGSC’s Ger Holland (National Matchplay Semi-Finalist) and Hillview’s Kathleen Shanley (former Munster Intermediate Strokeplay winner) as the current holder of that title, Lakeside’s Bridget Shelley (current Munster Intermediate holder) plays with former National Junior Strokeplay winner Mary Fullam and Collon’s Mary Agnew (third in last year’s event).
Former Junior winner Margaret Forde of Riverdale plays with last year’s Intermediate Strokeplay winner Cathy Richardson of Bellewstown and another former winner of that honour in Mairead O’Toole of Poulaphouca. 2014 National Intermediate Strokeplay winner Mary Donnelly of Ryston plays with Dunshaughlin’s Christine Morgan and Kilbeggan’s Kathleen Carton with former National Senior Strokeplay winner Rose Kelly of Ryston playing with Collins’ Vera McCarthy and Royal Meath’s Theresa Fagan. The trio of former Munster Intermediate Strokeplay winner Pauline Lucey of Hillview, Old County’s Pauline Balfe and St Bridgets’ Elizabeth Smyth completes the field.
The Senior competition will be contested between six players as Skyrne’s Kathleen Geraghty returns to defend the title. Munster Senior Strokeplay winner Mary Murray of Rocklodge (2016 Intermediate winner) along with Portmarnock’s Sheelagh Elmes will be her playing partners. Maree O’Toole of Shandon moves back to senior level after her Intermediate win last year with former National Matchplay and Strokeplay winner Margaret Hogan of Tullamore along with former Leinster Strokeplay winner Philo Condron of Lucan her playing partners on Saturday lunchtime as the women find themselves in the same ‘Shotgun Start’ as the Junior Gents.
42 players will compete for the only male title on Saturday with Cloghogue’s Finbarr Oakley (Nett Prizewinner last year) seeking to keep the title in the club after Matt McArdle’s great win on home turf last year. He features alongside Sean Crowe from the host club as well as Riverdale’s Seamus Gleeson with Crowe one of four McDonagh players in the grade. Michael Martin, Tom Merriman and Stephen Murphy are the other McDonagh players in the grade as Lough Owel duo Ed Janssen and Martin Verbeek make the trip over from Holland to take part. Verbeek was the winner of this grade in Fermoy in 2016 before the Dutch pair finished second and third respectively last year in Cloghogue.
Tullamore’s PJ Murphy was Runner-Up in the Offaly Junior Strokeplay as there is nearly double the amount of Leinster players as opposed to Munster ones in the grade with Collins’ Nicky Byrne St Annes duo Barry O’Flynn and Michael Boyle, Bruff duo Michael McGuane and PJ Ryan, Charleville’s Joe Mulvihill, Parteen’s Tony Cusack, Hillview duo Con Lucey and Sean O’Connor along with Riverdale trio Liam Bourke, John Whelan and Gleeson making up the southern province’s representation. In contrast to Cloghogue last year it will be interesting to see how the players cope with the different terrain around McDonagh, especially with the effect the much warmer weather has had on courses this summer.
SPACE will certainly be at a premium come Sunday morning with all 18 tee-boxes in use for the Intermediate Grade as after losing out to Cloghogue’s Ronan Hollywood in a nine-hole-playoff last year, Riverdale’s Sean Minogue returns this year hoping to go one better. He tees off with Gowran’s Christy Purcell and Athgarvan’s Martin Delaney as the host club have two competitors namely Peter Kearney and Stan McManaman. Kearney plays alongside Bishopstown’s Niall Kelliher and Tipperary Hills’ Brian O’Flynn (third place finisher in the Munster Intermediate Strokeplay) with McManaman playing with Fermoy’s Mike Delaney and Castleisland’s John Fitzgerald.
Former winner of the Junior grade, Ryston’s Aidan Whelan will be playing alongside Fermoy’s Robbie Donovan and Castletown’s Tony Browne as Trim’s Paddy Kelly with PPUI Vice President and Kildare Intermediate Strokeplay winner Liam Sherry playing alongside former Irish International Weeshie Murphy of Raffeen Creek as well as Trim’s Paddy Kelly. One of his team-mates from that 2014 Irish side, John Carton of Kilbeggan (2012 winner of this grade), will play with Loughlinstown’s Albert Mithen as well as Erry’s Joe Egan as Lucan, Erry and Kilbeggan have four players each in the field. Christy Kane, Noel Leonard, Ted Flynn and Gerry Ward represent the Dublin club as William Buckley Snr, Mick Feehan and Gerry Ward and Egan represent the Offaly club.
Martin Clarke, Tom Crowe and Mick Cunningham join Carton in representing the Westmeath club as former NEC Officer Paddy Browne of Collinstown plays with Paul Shoer Snr of Lakeside and Old County’s Thomas Balfe. 2016 winner of this event, Old County’s Charlie Egan, tees-off with Lakeside’s Martin McCormack and Collinstown’s Kevin Flanagan meanwhile. Turning to the Senior Gents at Sunday lunchtime, the presence of the last three winners (and multiple ones at that) in Seapoint’s Pat Greene, Bellewstown’s Wally Sheridan and Lucan’s Anthony Malone gives the event an interesting feel alongside that of other former winners in Frank Ryan and Michael Bedford.
The 15th staging of the 0-55’s Championships in general is a poignant one particularly in this grade with the passing of the first ever winner of the Senior Gents in 2004, Marty Fawl of Clare Road, over the winter months. Last year’s third place finisher, Barry Morrissey returns this year as does Nett prize winner Richard Jordan of Raffeen Creek with Ryston’s Sean Harkins, Bruff’s Pacelli Darcy, Limerick Senior Strokeplay winner Patsy Farrell and Hillview’s Noel Joyce amongst some of the other names to look out for amongst the field.
Former National Strokeplay Runner-Up Donal Duggan of St Annes is entered while Joe Ronan is the sole participant from the host club in this grade playing alongside both Malone and Ferbane’s Patsy Reamsbottom. It should be a very interesting affair with the track record of some of the players in the field and with the ‘Shotgun Start’ creating its own sense of unpredictability.
Best Wishes to all players this weekend in both Kilbeggan and McDonagh, updates will be available throughout the weekend on the two Championships both on the website as well as on social media.
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