Munster Matchplay review

Munster Matchplay review

Munster Matchplay review image

Jason O’Connor reflects on an interesting Munster Matchplay Championships last weekend in the following piece as there were some all county and all club affairs in the various deciders and a success for Sunday’s hosts.

There was some noteworthy history for Kerry Pitch & Putt last Sunday at the Cunnigar club in Dungarvan, Co Waterford as for the first time ever two Kerry Senior Mens players contested the Munster Senior Mens Matchplay final.

Needing to retain his title to book his place in the National Matchplay Finals, Jason Cregan duly obliged with a brilliant performance all weekend as he made Deerpark’s Damien Fleming wait a little while longer to complete a personal ‘grand slam’ of county, provincial and national individual titles. The journey started for both players with two matches on Saturday following by a tough three game schedule on the Sunday.

Jason beat his club-mate Jamie Blake by 5&4 in the First Round before following up with a 2&1 win over Lakeside’s Mick Fennell in Round 2 to make it through to Sunday. For Damien Saturday saw him beat Bruff’s Thomas Hanley 3&2 before defeating ESB’s Bryan Delaney by the same score in a repeat of the 2019 National Matchplay Final between the pair. The quarter-final stage was dramatic for both Kerry players. Jason was facing elimination in being one down to reigning National Matchplay champion Stephen O’Reilly of Tipperary at the penultimate hole.

He managed to overcome the obstacle of a tree to par the hole and draw the match level before getting a Hole-In-One on the last to win the match 1up! Damien meanwhile was two down with six to play over Cork’s John Walsh before birdieing the last six holes to win on the last and make it through to the semi-finals instead. Damien himself was a good 6&5 winner over National Senior Strokeplay holder Stephen Shoer while Jason came good in the second 18 of his semi-final with Douglas’ Rob O’Donoghue to win by 3&1 and set up the all-Kerry affair.

The final was tight for long stages; Damien did lead 2up at one stage before Jason pulled him back level as the match went into the second 18. Damien did manage to go 1up again but Jason was level again with nine holes to play. On the 14th hole second time around Jason went ahead for the first time before a bogey on the 17th drew the pair level playing the very final hole. Damien could only find the middle of the green with his tee-shot as Jason’s effort was right up at the pin.

Damien missed his putt leaving Jason the opportunity to knock in the winner for a 1up success for a win that had extra meaning for him given the significance of National Matchplay qualification. Jason replicated his club-mate Jonathon Goodall in retaining a Munster Senior title as Jonathon won the Senior Strokeplay event in both 2011 and 2012.

The Intermediate Mens final meanwhile saw a local success as Dylan Moroney certainly had to do it the hard way in coming through the first two matches of the event at Claycastle on Saturday. He beat Hillview duo Adrian Anglim and Marco Comerford 4&3 and 5&3 respectively to make it back home for Sunday in the last eight. His quarter-final with Tadhg Murphy of St Annes saw him lead by 2up after 18 holes before 2&1 was his winning scoreline in the end.

The semi-finals were a very nervous affair for him however with one of last year’s Junior semi-finalists in Korey Murphy of Raffeen Creek. Dylan trailed by two after 18 before forcing sudden death and he then managed to claim his place in the final at the second playoff hole. There was some consolation for Murphy though in claiming the remaining National Intermediate Mens Matchplay spot for this Sunday’s draw in Larkspur Park.

On the other side John Looney of Collins came through to continue a recent good run of form as he started off on Saturday in Claycastle with a 4&3 win over Bruff’s Michael Farrell as he then emerged victorious from an all Collins affair with Alan Long in the Last 16 by 6&5. He had a convincing 8&7 win over Dean Lonergan of St Annes in the quarter-finals to start his Sunday in Cunnigar before holding off the challenge of another Cork player in Michael Herlihy of ESB by 3&2 after being 4up after the first 18 holes.

The final was to be Dylan’s though as his local knowledge of the wind no doubt helped in winning out by 3&2 and giving the host club reason to cheer. Collins were celebrating in the Junior Mens Championship however as two club members would contest the final here. In the top half of the draw Dylan Ahern came through, winning his first match with Douglas’ Mark Gosling at the last hole 1up before having slightly more to spare in defeating Jonathon O’Neill of Tipp Hills by 5&4 in his second game.

On Sunday morning Dylan began with another last hole affair, this one a tight battle with Tralee’s Mark O’Regan as he stood on the right side of 1up success again in making the semi-finals. Tim O’Connor from Bishopstown was the player he beat 4&3 in the semi-finals as the bottom half of the draw saw his club-mate Paul Walsh come through. Paul himself had only one game on the Saturday that being a 5&4 win in the First Round over James McCarthy from day hosts Claycastle as he received a walkover from another Claycastle player Noel Butler in going straight into Sunday’s quarter-finals in Cunnigar.

He held off a second 18 comeback Bishopstown’s Ian McCarthy from 5up to eventually see out a 2&1 win as he was victorious by 3&2 over Bruff’s Charlie McCarthy in getting through to face his club-mate in the final. Here he was a 3&2 winner over Dylan to claim the club bragging rights for the success as the consolation for his quarter-final opponent Ian McCarthy was the National Matchplay spot on offer to this grade.

The three Womens Finals meanwhile saw two successes for Tipperary in the Senior and Intermediate and an all club affair in the Junior event. Breda White got back to winning ways at this level as although she received a walkover from Martha O’Brien in the first round she knocked out defending champion Sarah O’Neill of Collins by 3&2 to reach the final. Rocklodge’s Mary Murray would be her opponent in the final after she won a straight semi-final with Sarah McGrath of Fermoy by 4&3 as Breda took a big early lead in the final, going 6up before Mary pegged it back to 4&3 at the finish.

The Intermediate event saw Riverdale’s Margaret Hennessy continue her climb up the ladder as the former National Nett Matchplay Cup and Junior Ladies Strokeplay winner defeated two Collins players to claim the title. Margaret had received a walkover from club-mate Liz Forde to go straight in the semi-finals where despite leading 3up on Nicola Ahern after 18 holes it came down to the last hole before Margaret eventually claimed her win.

Vera McCarthy of Collins would be her opponent in the final, Vera winning two all Cork affairs to get there defeating Fermoy’s Ailish Sexton by 3&2 firstly before edging a very tight contest with Rocklodge’s Paula Nolan at the last hole to get into the final. Margaret dominated the final however leading 5up after 18 holes before winning 6&5 at the end as Collins as a club may well have come away with half of the six titles overall last weekend had all gone right for them in the three finals they were involved in.

The Junior event belonged to the Bishopstown club however as Angela Royner and Linda Griffin came through to contest the final. In Angela’s case it was a quite noteworthy campaign as she came all the way through from the First Round to win overall. A 9&8 win over defending champion Catriona O’Connor of Tralee was a strong early statement as she replicated that scoreline in her second game with Cunnigar’s Carmel Flanagan.

The quarter-finals saw another success over Cunnigar opposition for Angela as she defeated Julie Kiely 3&2 before she got the toughest test of the weekend from Hillview’s Veronica Anglim in the semi-finals in winning by 2&1. For her club-mate Linda she began with a Last 16 win over Michelle O’Connor from the hosts as she was a 9&8 winner over Bernadette O’Regan in the quarter-finals then. She then had a third victory over a Cunnigar player in beating Cait Mulcahy in the semi-finals by 8&7 to face Angela in the final.

The final was a bridge too far for Angela unfortunately as Linda was a comprehensive 13&12 winner to follow on from her semi-final appearance in the competition last year with victory this year.

All in all, a great two days in the South East to whet the appetite nicely for the trip slightly north to the venues for the National Matchplays on the June Weekend.