2019 National Inter-County Championships Build-Up: Day One

McDonagh in Profile

2019 National Inter-County Championships Build-Up: Day One image

Starting our look ahead to this weekend’s National Inter-County Championships, John Manning looks at host club McDonagh in this profile of the Kildare club.



Host venue to the III European Team Championships in 2003, the McDonagh Pitch and Putt course is situated just off Junction 12 on the M7 motorway. The historic McDonagh course lies on the famous Curragh of Kildare – the 5000 acre plain that covers much of the county.  Its rolling expanse of parkland provided an ideal opportunity to extend the normal course and be a perfect host venue when the EPPA members congregated in Ireland for the 2003 European Team Championship. 


McDonagh lies on Irish Army land and the club members enjoy an excellent relationship with their neighbours – the Irish Defence Forces Training Centre.  Named after Thomas McDonagh, one of the signatories to the 1916 Proclamation, McDonagh, which was founded in 1947, is the last survivor of an original seven Pitch & Putt courses on the Curragh.


Major Tomney, Curragh golf professional Phil Lawlor, Company Sergeant Miko Kelly and PJ O’Shea (who combined UN service overseas with stints on the PPUI’s Leinster Council and Central Council) were massive influences in the formative years of the club. Somewhat lean times followed for McDonagh before it was revitalised towards the end of the 1980s under the stewardship of the late Paddy Slattery (RIP). Visitors to McDonagh are ensured of a royal welcome.  A hardworking committee ensure the course is always in first class condition and excellent food and drink is always in liberal supply. 


Gerry Doyle delivered a national title for McDonagh at ESB in July when he was crowned National O-55 Junior Gents Strokeplay Champion. On the club’s Roll of Honour, Kevin joins Michael O’Shea, who won the National Intermediate Strokeplay Championship at Ierne in 1979 and Clare Winder, National Junior Strokeplay Champion at Ballinlough in Millennium year, 2000.


First National

National Championship activity first arrived at McDonagh in 1970. In high winds and heavy rain on September 13th, 1970, Nancy Tuohy (Catholic Institute) took the National Ladies Strokeplay Championship on 154 with Clare Keating of Woodvale second after scoring 159.The Limerick lady led Clare by eight strokes after two rounds and despite a brilliant 49 by the great Cork player for the final 18, Nancy held on to win. Joan Kavanagh (Mellows) was Intermediate Champion on 183 while Mary Madden (Douglas) clinched the Junior crown on 192.


The inaugural National Ladies Inter-County was held in conjunction with that Strokeplay Championship. Dublin (Teresa McGuigan, Ita Martin, May Vaughan and Georgina Matthews) fired 461 to beat Meath (Maureen Rusk, Peg Kelly, Kathleen McCabe and Ann Earls) into second place by nine shots. The National Matchplay Championships were played at McDonagh as well back in 1997. Margaret Hogan (Tullamore) beat Jean Cooney (Bissell) by 6&4 in the Ladies Final while in an all-Kildare gents’ decider, Jason Hannon (St Bridget's) overcame Athgarvan’s Eddie Carey by 2&1.


Most Recent Inter-County

September 2nd, 2000 was a sunny day at McDonagh and the sun certainly shone on the Kerry Pitch & Putt teams in the National Inter-County Championship second tiers.


The Kerry Ladies carded a team total of 436 and that was good enough for an eight shot win over favourites Down. Teresa Broderick (Tralee) returned 105 for Kerry, a score matched by Castleisland's Julianne Broderick. Eileen McCarthy carded 109 while 1998 National Intermediate Strokeplay Champion Margaret Looney returned 117. Tralee's Eileen Moynihan didn't find her best form but Kerry had the four scores they needed to head Down and claim the title. They also gained the all-important promotion slot to the premier ladies championship for 2001. Louth were third on 457.


In a dramatic finish to the Gent's lower Division Championship, the Kerry quintet completed the Kingdom double when they overcame Meath by a single shot. Kerry were in the clubhouse with a cumulative 44 under par total of 388 (Derry McCarthy 89, Shane McCarthy 99, Monty Galvin 99, Tony Broderick 101) with favourites Meath still on the course. Meath appeared to have levelled matters when the Royal County score was initially listed as 388. With the tiebreaking fifth card also level (Munster Strokeplay Champion Jason O'Regan of Kerry and Patsy Reilly of Meath both shooting 102) it looked like there would be a three hole play-off. However, it transpired that Meath's Wally Sheridan, who ran up a bogey four at the 13th having pitched in the front bunker, had signed for three at that hole and his card had to be disqualified. That left Kerry ahead by the narrowest of margins. Meath's consolation was second place and the other promotion slot. Down were third. 


It was a stroll in the sun at the McDonagh club for the Kildare Ladies team - winners of the National Inter-County championship for the third time in four years, by a margin of 20 shots. Bernadette Coffey of gave Kildare the ideal start with a brilliant 97. Late substitute Tara Dillon shot 100, a score matched by Inter-County debutante, Christine Byrne. Marian Byrne was round in 102 while Rose Kelly (the 1996 National Strokeplay champion) scored 113. That gave Kildare a magnificent team score of 399, (33 under par and an all-time championship record), 20 shots clear of Dublin in second place. Cork recovered well from sixth and last place at halfway to clinch third place on 431 - helped by strong second round performances from international players, Claire Murphy and Linda Murphy.


Eddie Carey, veteran of many an Inter-County campaign for the Lilywhites, arrived at the 36th tee. His task was simple. A par at McDonagh's final hole would give Kildare the Gents’ Inter-County Championship for the first time since 1988. The Ryston man's pitch pulled-up just seven feet below the hole. Two putts later, Kildare had posted a 62 under par total of 370 for an exciting one shot victory over Cork and Westmeath. Kildare led the 10 counties after 18 holes on 182, six clear of Westmeath. Westmeath had a battle royal with playing partners Cork. Alan Hanlon birdied every single one of the opening nine holes in his second round and knocked in a five-footer downhill on the home green to record a superb 41 second round and 87 overall. That left Westmeath level with Cork. The Leesiders got the second place verdict on the tiebreaking fifth card - John Cahill's 98 on his debut beating John Feery’s 101.


St. Bridget’s pair Frank Ryan and Ian Dillon along with Joe Ronan on his home course made some vital putts down the stretch to see Kildare over the finishing line and Captain Tom McCormack proudly accepted the Anchor Cup to cap a home county double. 


2003 European Team Championship

The sun shone.  McDonagh course looked superb.  Lily Slattery kept producing culinary masterpieces.  The Competition Committee (helped by the indefatigable Michael Murphy) ran the playing schedule like clockwork.  Paddy Slattery (RIP) constantly ensured everything was working well behind the scenes.  From the flag-raising on Thursday evening to the prize presentation on Sunday afternoon, matters progressed as planned.  Colum Slattery’s innovative new scoreboard system went down a treat.  The long anticipated 2003 European Team Championship in Ireland had been an unqualified success.


Chris’ (Scannell) crew or Billy’s (Lynch) braves delivered each day on that September weekend 16 years ago.   A 47 under par tally in the Strokeplay was followed by two comprehensive victories on Saturday – the performance level appropriately ramped up for the French assignment.  When the heat was on against Catalonia in Sunday’s decider, the Irish dug deep. Chris Scannell and Sean Harkins had been to the well internationally many times before but they mined two priceless halves from their tough singles matches to ensure the crystal trophy stayed at home. Liam O’Donovan, Derek Courtney, Darren O’Reilly and John Walsh were the other Irish heroes on that occasion.


And the Irish Ladies side at McDonagh (Peggy Campbell RIP, Ger Ward, Margaret Hogan, Marian Byrne, Tracey McGrath and Chrissie Byrne) had the continentals marvelling at their standard of play.  


O-55’s Championships

The National Ladies O-55 Strokeplay Championships were played at McDonagh on July 28th 2018. Mary Murray (Rocklodge) took the Senior grade on 107 by two from Maree O'Toole (Shandon) with Margaret Hogan (Tullamore) third, another shot back. Sheelagh Elmes (Portmarnock) was Nett winner on 104. An all-home county play-off in the Intermediate grade resulted in a win for Mairead O'Toole (Poulaphouca), who had tied on 110 with Rose Kelly (Ryston). Frances Ryan (Lakeside) missed the extra holes by a single stroke while nett laurels were garnered by Margaret Forde (Riverdale) on 94. Another Short Grass county success was recorded by Anne Sweeney (St. Bridget's) whose 122 left her one clear of club-mate Dina Dillon. Marian McCormack (Prosperous) was next on 126 while Glenville’s Breda Boyle secured the nett award (97).


The National Gents O-55 Strokeplay Championships were also contested at McDonagh on 28th/29th July 2018. Frank Ryan (Athgarvan) scored 92 to come out on top of all-host county battle in senior. Frank had two to spare over Runner-Up Joe Ronan (McDonagh) while Sean Harkins (Ryston) finished third on 96. Nett prize went to Richard Jordan (Raffeen Creek) with 91. Sean Minogue (Riverdale) clinched the intermediate title with 96, one clear of John Fleming (Tullamore) with Anthony Maher (Lakeside) third on 98. Stan McManaman of the home club made the podium with his Nett of 87. Junior Champion was Christy Sweeney (St. Bridget's), who carded 103 for a two stroke victory over second placed Martin Verbeek (Lough Owel) with Nicholas Byrne (Collins) next on 108. The Junior Nett prize also stayed at home, with Sean Crowe (McDonagh), who returned 80.


The most recent national event at McDonagh was the All Ireland Schools Competition in May. St. Munchin's College, Limerick (Shea Fennell 96, Patrick Mitchell 109 and Paddy Lawler 111) emerged as champions on 316 ahead of holders St. Francis College, Rochestown (Eoin Keating 96, Liam McGrath 112, Colm O'Sullivan 114) with 322 and Templeogue College third (Oisin Horan 104, David Horan 108 and Darragh Cullen 115) on 327.


Leinster Events

Many provincial championships have also been played at McDonagh. Andy Dempsey won the 1974 Leinster Strokeplay (the second of his nap hand of titles) there, while David Richardson (Hammond Lane) on 98 and Kathleen Murphy (61) won 1978 Leinster Juvenile Strokeplays at McDonagh.


McDonagh has twice hosted the Leinster Ladies Strokeplay. Tracey McGrath (Erry) survived a 2008 Senior play-off with Marian Byrne (St Bridgets) after the pair tied on 150. Anne-Marie McCabe (Ferbane) took Intermediate laurels on 111, ahead of Carol O'Brien (Gaeil Colmcille) on 113. Zita Galvin (Tullamore) tasted Junior glory on 127 while Siobhan McDonnell (Lucan) finished second on 130.


The Championships had reverted to 36 holes for the 2017 visit to the Curragh venue. Chrissie Byrne’s (St. Bridget’s) 98 gave her a five stroke senior winning margin over club-mate Tara Dillon. Philo Condon (Lucan) wrapped-up the Intermediate on 109, five better than Catherine Smith (St. Bridget’s). Patricia Anderson (Lucan) signed for 123 in the Junior to deny Moira Behan (McDonagh) by a single shot.


At McDonagh in the 1996 Leinster Matchplay, Frank Ryan beat Liam Sherry RIP by 6&5 in a St. Bridget’s local derby battle for the Senior crown. Mark Gibney (Trim) beat Andrew Burdock (C.P.M.) by one hole in the Intermediate final while Pat Marron (Lakeview) outlasted Martin Reville (Irish Ropes) by one hole in the Junior. In the 2002 Leinster Matchplay Final at McDonagh, William Buckley Junior (Erry) defeated Colin Somers (Royal Meath) by 4&3. James Carroll (Castletown) beat Damien Sweeney (St. Bridget's) by 2&1 to clinch the Intermediate title while John Lupton (Millhouse) beat Niall Keeley (Cement) by one hole in the Junior decider.


In the 1996 Leinster Ladies Matchplay Final at McDonagh, Ann Hall (Royal Meath) beat Una Pyke (Tullamore) 5&4. Graded victors were Tara Dillon (St. Bridget's) and Mary Quinn (Cement) who beat Mairead O'Toole (Poulaphouca) 6&5 and Frances Collins (Glenville) 5&3 in the respective intermediate and junior deciders. Marian Byrne (St. Bridgets) clinched the 2002 Leinster Ladies Matchplay at McDonagh with a 4&3 victory over club-mate Tara Dillon. Intermediate Champion Kathleen Grendon (Rathfeigh) beat Mary Agnew (Collon) 3&2 while Anne Sweeney (St. Bridgets) overcame Ann O'Rourke (Channonrock) at the 37th in a very close Junior decider.


Dublin and Kildare dominated the 2007 Leinster Inter-County Championships at McDonagh. Dublin Gents (Eoin Mithen, Derek Courtney, Anthony Malone, Fred McMahon, Frank Ryan and George McGreal) scored 427 to pip Kildare (Jason Hannon, Christy Hannon, Darren Keogh, Cathal Swift, Ian Dillon and Eddie Carey) by just a single shot.


Kildare Ladies (Martina Loakman, Rose Kelly, Marian Byrne, Mairead O'Toole, Chrissie Byrne and Tara Dillon) scored 465 to finish 14 clear of Runners-Up Dublin (Phil Condron, Ger Ward, Stella Sheridan, Sheelagh Elmes, Barbara Furlong and Ann Maloney RIP).

Tomorrow: Declan Sheedy previews the Ladies event.