FOR the first time in six years, Rocklodge plays host to a National Singles Championship and one that is possibly decade defining in how it will pan out for the Gents this weekend. Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor takes a closer look at proceedings in advance of tomorrow’s event.
WHETHER the weather is as much a factor as it was at the 2013 National Gents Strokeplay, where the deluge reduced play to 36 holes for the Intermediates and Juniors on Saturday and delayed the start of the playoff for the senior event the following day, remains to be seen. However, Monday afternoon’s winner will either add or slightly lessen Cork’s domination of the Mens grade this decade.
Chris Scannell might have ended the Ray Murphy four-in-a-row with his 2010 win in Larkspur Park but bar Damien Fleming in 2011 in Collinstown and John Ross Crangle in Tipperary Hills in 2017, the title has been Cork’s otherwise this decade. Murphy will hope that Rocklodge might serve as something of an omen for him this weekend, his last National Singles title came there in his National Matchplay and Strokeplay double winning year of 2013 but after losing the last two deciders Murphy will not want to let another chance slip away as the game begins to enter a new decade.
Murphy will begin the afternoon session on Saturday against Lough Owel’s Gerry Coyne with the possibility of Rocklodge being two different courses depending on the weather firmly in his mind. Defending champion Bryan Delaney looked to be heading into the weekend in buoyant mood coming towards the conclusion of his Munster Senior Matchplay Final with Shane Murphy (now of Rocklodge). Murphy came from three down with four to play to win in an incredible turnaround as Delaney will want to get the memory of that experience out of his system quickly when he faces Tony Blake of Tralee in the very first match of the day tomorrow.
2016 winner himself, Murphy will face Lucan’s Phillip Sweeney in the afternoon session with his stock rising in the prediction stakes following his performance in Larkspur Park. Being a member of the club now will stand to him you feel much as it will Damien Fleming (an associate member) as he joined the host club’s ranks for their run to the Finals of the Cork Senior Leagues earlier in the year. His match with a fellow Irish Open winner in Eamon Gibney is a nice way to complete the First Round on Saturday and with either Alan Hanlon of Collinstown or Anthony Skinner Malone waiting in the Second Round for the victor this is an interesting little section to the draw.
2012 winner Kevin McCarthy will hope for a good run around his own course this weekend as his finish amongst the Top Four in the National Strokeplay last year might suggest a return to form as he faces Michael Long of St Annes in the afternoon tomorrow. John Ross Crangle’s loss in the Dublin Qualifiers to Sean Cadogan of Portmarnock (who plays former Munster Strokeplay winner Kevin McCarron in the second match of the afternoon session) means former Munster Senior Matchplay and National Intermediate Strokeplay winner Stephen Shoer of Lakeside is seeded fourth for the event as he faces John Fitzgerald of Hillview in a Tipperary derby in the last match of the morning session.
Crangle is the only winner of the event this decade not to be here for its move towards a new decade as Chris Scannell has an interesting encounter ahead of him against John Tracey from the host club. Back-to-Back winner in 2014 and 2015, John Walsh will hope for a prolonged campaign this year as he faces one of last year’s Quarter-Finalists in Declan Freeman of Fermoy who went on to claim a short-lived reign as Munster Senior Matchplay Champion back in September. Mark Millar’s campaign was a very short one in Tullamore last year but after claiming the Leinster title after a playoff with Crangle in Trim, the Killineer (formerly Cement) player will feel he can do much better this year as he faces Jerry O’Donovan of Collins in the First Round.
Winner of the Irish Open here in 2016 Frank Dineen will get a tough examination of St Bridgets Ian Dillon in the First Round with the winner to face either Shoer or Fitzgerald on Sunday morning. With an eye to the future, the performance of both Douglas’ Eoin Keating and Castletown’s Evan Carry will be eagerly watched this weekend. National U-20 winner Keating will face George Beardsley of McBride in what is a real ‘youth vs. experience’ affair. Carry makes his first major appearance on the senior stage after claiming all before him at U-16 level in the last three years meanwhile. He faces a player who had a good record in the youth ranks himself in Shane Hoare of Larkspur Park as the winner of the first U-20 Championship in 2017, Keating’s Douglas club-mate Cian Morrison will play St Patricks’ James Foley Jnr.
Some other matches of interest in the First Round sees Irish Internationals Thomas Hanley and James Cleary face Barry Morrissey and Ierne’s Paul Nolan respectively. Paul Tobin of St Patricks faces Old County’s George McGreal as Darren Keogh of Ryston taking on Tullamore’s Darren O’Connell is another interesting all Leinster affair. Two former winners of the National Junior Gents Strokeplay will be competing this weekend as well, Lakeside’s Brian Cahill playing Dean Grannell of St Patricks in the First Round as Daniel Clinton of Killineer has a big task in getting the better of Munster Senior Strokeplay holder Kieran Earls of Parteen.
Three-time Semi-Finalist in this event, Jason O’Regan of Tralee, returns this year as he faces Hillview’s Stephen O’Reilly. It will be interesting to see how much the course as much as a player’s opponent will be a factor in determining matches over the weekend. The smart money will be on a Cork winner given the venue but there could well be a few surprises over the weekend when it comes down to the crunch.
Hopefully it will be a fitting end to what has been an interesting decade for the tournament after the dominance of the latter part of the last decade of the tournament by a certain Mr. Murphy when he was of the Templebreedy club.
We wish all competitors in all three events this weekend the very best of luck as well as a safe journey to all those travelling to Cork. Updates will be available throughout the weekend as we hope to bring you the Finals live on Monday through our Facebook pages.
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