AS is customary now on National Gents Strokeplay Sunday, 80 players will tee-off at Hillview hoping to be crowned 2017 Champion. Communications & Press Officer Jason O’Connor takes a closer look at the field in this preview.
AFTER the record breaking nature of his win in Tullamore last year, Liam O’Donovan enters the defence of the Donnelly Cup in a buoyant mood after the nature of his victory in the World Strokeplay Championships in Norway last weekend. O’Donovan will go off from the first tee along with Fermoy’s John Cahill whose form in 2017 has seen him reach a playoff for the Munster Strokeplay title only to end up in third position afterwards. Just before both tee-off in the preceding group on the first will be last year’s runner-up Darren O’Connell who used home advantage to great effect in Tullamore last year as he will play alongside Michael Conneely of Trim.
Munster Strokeplay winner Bryan Delaney will be one of the last players to tee-off from the 10th tee on Sunday afternoon as the 2009 winner of this event is paired with another former winner in William Buckley Jnr of Erry (2003) with the third placed finisher in Leinster, Paul Tobin of St Patricks, paired alongside Old County’s George McGreal from the first tee. 2013 winner Ray Murphy goes off from the first tee alongside Dutch native Rene Jan Bloem from Collinstown with last year’s third place finisher Damien Fleming of Deerpark teeing off with Fermoy’s David Sexton before them. 2008 winner Frank Dineen tees-ff from the 10th tee meanwhile alongside Ierne’s Paul Nolan as National Matchplay winner John Ross Crangle tees off alongside RGSC’s Junior Smith, captain of last year’s Dublin Inter-County winning team.
Local hopes rest with James Cleary who after his recent run to the National Matchplay Quarter-Finals will tee-off alongside Tralee’s Jason O’Regan from the 10th. Tipperary interest in general sees their County Strokeplay Champion Stephen Shoer tee-off with Ratoath’s Brian McCabe while the runner-up in that event James Ryan plays alongside Lough Owel’s Gary Middleton. Tipperary Hills’ Anthony Culhane plays with John O’Leary of Ballinlough while Lakeside duo Paul O’Brien and Brian Cahill play with Seapoint’s Gerry Breen Jnr and former Irish Open winner Eamon Gibney respectively from the 10th tee. Some County/Regional Strokeplay winners amongst the field include Listowel’s Declan McCarron (Kerry) as he plays alongside Athgarvan’s Cathal Dunne while Kildare winner Joe Ronan (McDonagh) tees off alongside Tony Blake of Tralee.
Louth/Down/Monaghan winner Ian Donnelly of Cement plays with Declan Freeman of Fermoy while Bellewstown’s Peter O’Reilly (Meath winner) tees off with Mark Millar of Cement from the first tee. Offaly winner Sean Buckley of Erry tees-off with Ryston’s William Fitzgerald while Kerry Runner-Up John McGrath of Deerpark plays with Paul Collins of Fermoy. Westmeath Runner-Up Stephen Ruane of Collinstown plays with Old County’s Paul McGreal while 1995 winner Chris Scannell tees-off from the 10th with Portmarnock’s Thomas Ryan. Some other pairings to look out for include National Youth Officer Noel Collins teeing off with Castleisland’s James Dignan while after contesting for the Seniors title at the World Strokeplay in Norway last weekend, Bruff’s Pacelli Darcy will tee-off with Shandon’s Dennis Monaghan while former National Matchplay winner Sean Harkins tees-off with Old County’s Gary McGreal.
Overall it’s a field with a lot of new names and some more established ones missing. Whether it adds to the suspense Sunday will be seen as we wait to see if a new name will go on the Cup for the first time since 2012 or if one of the established off will play their way to success once more.
We wish everyone heading to Hillview this weekend the very best of luck especially the competitors in all three competitions over the course of the weekend. Updates will be available on the PPUI website over the course of both days play.