A MEMORABLE weekend in McDonagh which saw tight finishes and low scoring made the 2019 National Inter-County Championships something pretty unique. Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor looks back on two great days of play in the following piece while John Manning also has some stats at the end.
IT started and ended with the tricolour going up and down to the sound of ‘Amhrain na bhFainn’ but what happened in-between in McDonagh was a sight to behold as a large attendance was treated to the closest finish ever to a Ladies Inter-County while everyone bore witness to a scoring surge from the Dublin Gents on Sunday that set them up for a powerful win.
THE tone for the weekend was set with the Scotch Foursomes on Saturday with eight shots separating the top eight counties after the first 18 holes. Kildare and Limerick led on 31 under par as the hosts had two 12 under par rounds from both Ian Dillon & Frank Ryan along with the combination of both John Delaney & Cathal Dunne as seven under for Joe Ronan and & Cathal Dunne brought them to 131 strokes. Limerick meanwhile had three double figure cards for their Scotch Foursomes, 11 under for both James Ryan & Liam O’Donovan followed by 10 under par rounds for the combinations of Patsy Farrell & Martin Keohane and Kieran Earls & Thomas Hanley to draw level with the hosts.
Cork and Louth were both back on 27 under, Dublin 26 under, Wexford 25 under, Kerry 24 and Tipperary 23 in what was looking like an interesting battle ahead with Offaly the other county to break 20 under for their Scotch Foursomes. Saturday’s Singles belonged to both to Wexford and Louth however in both going into a joint overnight lead of 63 under par. Nine under for Dean Grannell was followed by eight under for both Richard Grannell and Martin O’Neill with seven under for Paul Tobin and six under for James Foley Jnr giving them the combined Singles total of 38 under par. It was a case of three eights and three sixes for Louth in their Saturday Singles but they could afford to drop one of their sixes as George Beardsley, Sean Goggin and Padraic Sarsfield all had eight under par in giving them a share of the lead.
Ian Dillon came in with 10 under on Saturday afternoon for Kildare as they lay a shot off the lead overnight on 62 under as eight under from James Ryan helped Limerick to a Saturday total of 61 under as the top four were only separated by two shots. Dublin lay fifth overall overnight on 54 under but well primed for a charge. The tricky Foursomes format on Sunday appeared to put Louth in prime position for a crack at their first Anchor Cup in 17 years. George Beardsley & Sean Goggin had 10 under par with Ian Donnelly & Peter Reilly along with Padraic Sarsfield & Barry Thornton bringing in six under each to move them to 85 under par overall. Dublin gave a strong indication of the turnaround that would follow however as George McGreal & Chris Gallagher combined for a 12 under par round and John Ross Crangle & Junior Smith came in with 10 under before Jason Larkin & Paul Nolan shot four under.
Dublin were now second overall alongside Limerick and Wexford as they were all tied on 77 under par. Kildare were 13 behind in fifth but the Sunday Singles belonged to the Dubs in a way few would have predicted beforehand. Anyone following them on the course or looking at the scores online could not but raise their eyebrows at the progress they were making into Louth’s lead. Leaving a six under par round from Paul Nolan was an incredible luxury to the visitors as John Ross Crangle came in with 11 under par and Junior Smith and Jason Larkin followed on the double score front with rounds of 10 under par as George McGreal’s nine and Jason Larkin’s eight under par made it 48 under par for their five cards and 125 under for the tournament.
They still had to wait for Louth, Kildare and Wexford to finish before their win could be made official. Louth could only improve their score by a further 30 shots, George Beardsley shooting seven under with further six under par rounds from Ian Donnelly, Sean Goggin and Peter Reilly along with five under from Barry Thornton their counting scores. Their 115 under total gave them second from Limerick by nine shots as the Treaty county’s 29 under par for the Sunday Singles included seven under for Liam O’Donovan, sixes for both Thomas Hanley and James Ryan and five under each for both Kieran Earls and Martin Keohane.
That was five shots better than Cork and Wexford who both finished on 101 under, Cork boosted by 11 under for Ray Murphy and 10 under for John Walsh in their closing Singles as despite Ian Dillon shooting 21 under combined for his two Singles rounds Kildare finished outside the Top Five on 98 under par. Wexford were actually in contention for the Eamon Birchall Cup as the best Nett county before a check of cards and handicaps confirmed fellow C/K/W club Kilkenny as the winners. The team of Nicholas Brennan, James Casey, Derek Delaney, Michael Kehoe, Kevin Knox and team captain Patrick Robinson Jnr caught the eye over the weekend with how well they did in finishing as the 11th best gross county but the Eamon Birchall Cup was a fitting reward for their efforts over both days.
Returning to Dublin though, who matched their best winning margin of 10 strokes from 1982 in Cloghogue, won 20 years on from their 1999 success and for the second time in four years after a win in RGSC in 2016. That McDonagh also marked team captain George McGreal’s first appearance in a Dublin Gents side back in 2000 and also saw the late, great David Hayden feature for the Dublin side that day added to the poignancy of their win.
The scoring may not have been as the same standard as the Men but the drama was definitely more intense for the Ladies as it came down to one final putt for Tipperary’s Martha O’Brien to decide the destination of the James Vaughan Cup for 2019. Sink it and Tipperary would be Champions for the first time in six years on the exact same date they won in Hillview in 2013 on the basis of a better sixth card. Miss and Dublin would be the ones to officially end’s Kildare’s three-in-a-row hopes by a single stroke!
How we got to that point was tale of fine margins in between as the lead changed hands on several occasions. Cork led after the first Scotch Foursomes rounds with a combined seven under par. Sarah McGrath & Ailish Sexton had four under par, Mary Murray & Valerie Leahy three under with Mairead Manning & Sarah O’Neill level par for their first Scotch Foursomes round together. Tipperary had four under par with two, two under par rounds for the combinations of Breda White & Shula McCarthy along with Shula’s daughters Gemma & Michelle McCarthy. Lakeside duo Martha O’Brien & Mary Quinn had level par as Kildare had three under par combined courtesy of three under for Margaret Keogh & Chrissie Byrne along with one under for Tara Dillon & Mary Donnelly with Marian Courtney & Elizabeth Smyth one over par.
Dublin were the team to dominate in the second Scotch Foursomes rounds however as Portmarnock dup Sheelagh Elmes & Ger Ward had five under par while Pauline Balfe & Glenda Hoey came in with four under as three over for Phil Condron & Helen Greagsby meant Dublin’s tournament total moved to three under par. Cork slipped back to three under after their second set of cards as level par for Tipperary and one under combined meant that the Lilywhites and Premier were tied overnight for the lead on four under with Dublin and Cork a stroke behind in joint second. The Singles had no end of possibilities with Tipp, Kildare and Dublin all playing together and Cork ahead of them alongside Meath and Louth.
Cork dropped out of contention after a disappointing Singles as one under par from Mary Murray was the best of a combined 22 over par combined for their Singles. It still left them well clear of Louth and Meath though as when the Nett scores were calculated, the Rebelettes were the ones to be the first winners of this prize. The battle for the main title continued apace however as despite two under for Tara Dillon, one under for Chrissie Byrne, one over for Marian Courtney and three over for Margaret Keogh, Kildare finished on a combined seven over for the Singles and 597 as their overall score in third.
Still the crowds gathered as word filtered out at how close it was between Dublin and Tipperary as the holes started to run out. Breda White made a strong statement for Tipperary with five under in giving them their first score as it bettered two under par rounds for both Ger Ward and Glenda Hoey. Level par for Phil Condron and one and two over par respectively for Sheelagh Elmes and Pauline Balfe had it on a knife-edge though especially as Tipperary had level par for Mary Quinn and one and two over respectively for Michelle and Shula McCarthy as it came down to Martha O’Brien’s four footer on the last.
With all eyes on the National Ladies Strokeplay Champion, she responded affirmatively to the pressure as she holed the putt that meant Gemma McCarthy’s 57 as opposed to Helen Greagsby’s 63 would decide the outcome in Tipperary’s favour. A third successive in total for the Premier meant that the title would change hands for a ninth time this decade as Kildare and Cork shared three titles each and there was two each for Tipperary and Dublin.
The win put the seal on a fantastic year for the Ladies game in the Premier County at Singles and Inter-County level at provincial level in the aftermath of former Tipperary Secretary and National Youth Officer Helen McMorrow’s sad passing prior to Christmas.
Well done finally to the McDonagh club on a fine effort both on and off the course in looking after all and sundry that visited the Curragh over both days.
Thanks to Pat Tinsley for his kind permission in supplying the attached photos.
The Stats (By John Manning)
- Tipperary’s Ladies win the Inter-County championship for the third time and for the second time in seven stagings.
- Breda White boasts three wins and has been on board every for Tipp win (1990, 2013 and 2019).
- For Martha O’Brien, Shula McCarthy and Mary Quinn, it was a second win in the Inter-County having played at Hillview in 2013.
- Michelle McCarthy and Gemma McCarthy each record their first win in the Ladies Inter-County.
- Michelle and Gemma played alongside their mother Shula on the winning team – the first time a mother and two daughters have featured on the same Inter-County winning side. Maureen Rusk and her daughter Audrey Rusk were part of the 1983 winning Meath team while Pauline Gleeson and her mother Maureen Whelan won with Meath in 1988. Sisters Marina and Bernie O’Rourke played together on the successful Down 1982 team. Sisters Chrissie Byrne, Marian Courtney and Margaret Keogh have regularly featured on triumphant Kildare combinations.
- Dublin finished second for the 13th time in the National Ladies Inter-County Championship, moving one ahead of Kildare on that all-time list
- Dublin were second for the third year in-a-row – that’s a first for Dublin. Cork (1974-76) and Westmeath (1985-87) were also runners-up in three successive years while Kildare took second four years running (2010-13).
- Ger Ward now has 10 National Inter-County Runners-Up medals, Sheelagh Elmes 9, Phil Condron 5, Glenda Hoey 3, Pauline Balfe 2 and Helen Greagsby 1
- Kildare finished third for the second time since third place was officially awarded from the 1991 championship onwards.
- For the first time in the 50 stagings of the championship the 6th (or 5th in the days of five player teams) singles card was used to decide the Ladies Inter-County.
- Previous tightest margin was one stroke, which happened on four occasions – 1999, 1992, 1981 and 1975.
- Last Nett winner was an individual back in 1990 - Rose Scanlon (Cork) 97.
- Five players (Ger Ward, Sheelagh Elmes, Tara Dillon, Chrissie Byrne and Marian Courtney) played in both the 2000 and 2019 McDonagh Inter-County Championships.
- 2019 represents Dublin 18th Gents Inter-County win – second to Cork’s 23 on the all-time Roll of Honour.
- Junior Smith won the Inter-County championship with Dublin for the third time and extends his record for the longest gap between first and most recent win by an individual to an incredible 36 years (1983-2019).
- John Ross Crangle took his second Inter-County winners medal while Jason Larkin, George McGreal, Paul Nolan and Chris Gallagher notched their first.
- George McGreal’s win came on the course where he made his adult Inter-County debut 19 years ago and arrives after four Runners-Up appearances for Dublin plus one Juvenile Inter-County second place with the Metropolitans (at Bagenalstown in 1998).
- Louth were Runners-Up for the third time in five years and for the fourth time in all. Padraic Sarsfield, Ian Donnelly, George Beardsley and Barry Thornton now have three silver medals, Sean Goggin two and Peter Reilly one.
- Limerick’s third place is the Shannonsiders’ best performance since they also took bronze at Lakeside in 2005. Liam O’Donovan and Patsy Farrell were also part of that team.
- Ian Dillon’s 87 matched Alan Hanlon’s 87; scored on the last occasion the Gent’s Inter-County was played in McDonagh 19 years ago.
- 16 players that played in the Gents Inter-County at McDonagh in 2000 played again this year
- Last Nett winner was an individual back in 1990 – John A. Moran (Limerick) 91.
- Kilkenny claimed the new Team Nett award as their team featured all of the players who took third in the Division B in 2018 - Nicholas Brennan, Michael Kehoe, Kevin Knox and Patrick Robinson. Derek Delaney (2019 National Junior Strokeplay winner) and James Casey (who helped Kilkenny to third place in the 2019 Leinster Junior Inter-County) completed the Black and Amber line-up.
- Wexford’s Second Nett finish continued the Slaneysiders’ impressive Inter-County record, which includes an overall win in 2012.
- Dayle Donohue, Richard Grannell and Dean Grannell were part of the Wexford team that was third last year. Martin O’Neill and Paul Tobin were members of the 2012 winning side. Jim Foley played on the Wexford team that won the lower tier Championship at Waterford Crystal 20 years ago.
There will be some videos with the winning captains posted over the coming days as well as this piece.
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