National Youth Championships Build-Up Day One

John Manning takes a look at the history of tie-holes in the National U16 Championships

There have been nine play-offs in the 45 stagings of the National Boys’ Strokeplay Championship. Extra holes have been required on five occasions in the girls’ tournament while there have been three ties at Inter-County level. Two of the latter have been decided by the play-off route, the other by the more prosaic discard score method.

Having won the Leinster Juvenile Strokeplay at Cement, Mark Somers (Hammond Lane) was one of the favourites for the 1979 National Boys’ Championship at Royal Meath. And he duly justified that pick despite Trojan efforts by Cork Strokeplay Runner-Up Chris Aherne (Beamish & Crawford) whose 20 back nine forced the championship’s first-ever play-off. Mark (brother of Colin) prevailed in those extra holes to top a field of 46.

First player off in the 1993 National Boys’ Strokeplay Championship at St. Bridgets was Martin Sherkle (Old County). Sherkle dropped a shot at the first but recorded seven twos thereafter for a 48.

Paul Lennon (Poulaphouca) was on 51 while home player Derek Coogan held the first round lead on 47. The young Kilcullen lad faded in the second as the putts refused to drop. Martin Sherkle maintained the momentum over the second 18 and his 47 for 95 presented an intimidating target as a nasty shower enveloped the course.

Paul shot a 44 second round for Kildare in the previous day’s Inter-County and this is precisely what he needed to do to tie Martin Sherkle. Amazingly, he managed it, birdieing four of the last six holes to do so.

The first three holes decided the play-off. Martin pulled his birdie putt at the first while Paul’s crept in over the front lip. Having pulled his pitch long and left at the second, Paul produced a sublime 10-yard chip that hit the flag and dived in! Martin couldn’t match the birdie and the Kildare player went three to the good when he canned a six-footer for birdie at the next. A fine pitch to within three feet at the sixth gave Martin some hope but Paul played steadily over the next three for pars and two putts from ten feet on the ninth clinched a two stroke win.

14–year-old Darren Quirke won the 2003 National Juvenile Strokeplay Championship.  Following a tie on 98 at E.S.B. with Thomas Smith (Castletown) after the regulation 36 holes, it looked as if Thomas Smith would take an early advantage when he had a six-foot downhill putt for birdie on the opening hole of the nine holes play-off. Darren made a great par putt after pitching weakly. The Meath player then three putted for bogey to get off to an unnerving start.  They were level after two when Darren's par putt rimmed the hole.  The Fermoy player, who represented Cork in the previous day's Inter-County Championship, ran in a six-footer for birdie at the third to leap ahead. A superb pitch to within two feet of the next left Quirke two clear and he was never troubled thereafter.

Earlier in the day, Thomas Smith had forced that play-off when he downed a tremendous 15-foot birdie putt from the back of the green to post a second round 48 and get to ten under, the mark earlier set by Darren Quirke.  Darren had started fast with an opening nine of 22 and a first round 48 to be the halfway leader. Three birdies from the fourth second time had him -10 for the championship after 24.  Darren pitched left of the eighth green to run up only his second four of the day.  His pitch to the ninth lipped the hole to set up another birdie.  The new champion parred every hole coming in for a 98, missing some plausible birdie chances.  Completing a great day for Fermoy, Darren's fellow club member Damien Burke holed a three foot birdie putt on the home green to take third spot on 99. Damien was the only other player to break 100 on a difficult scoring day.

Darren Quirke would go on to win the 2007 National Intermediate Strokeplay Championship.

Meath Inter-County star Shane Farrelly (Castletown) won a play-off for the 2004 National Juvenile Strokeplay Championship at sun-splashed St. Patricks (Enniscorthy).  Farrelly's extra holes opponent, Brian Collins (Douglas), found a horrendous lie in the front bunker on the 52 metre opening hole from where he made five.  Farrelly two putted for par to take an immediate two stroke advantage.  Brian's misery continued on the third where he ran up a bogey and then he went Out of Bounds at the next before bravely chipping-in for bogey.  Shane Farrelly was in irrepressible mood in the play-off.  Nine ahead playing the ninth, he could afford to bogey after pitching long to hand in 24 to Brian Collins' 32.

Shane and Brian had earlier tied on 99, the Douglas player dyking the last three holes to equal the Meath lad's clubhouse target. Farrelly started slowly and was just even par after the first nine.  Mixing birdies (at 10, 12, 13, 17 and 18) with two bogeys, he was home in 24 to lie three off the 18-hole pace.  Shane shrugged off a four at the 19th to go out in 25. Four birdies in the last seven holes (including the last two again) saw him safely in with 99. Brian Collins, who was also Runner-Up in that year’s Munster Strokeplay, was out in 25 first time and also back in 25 after a birdie hat-trick from the eleventh.  A couple of bogeys didn't unduly faze the Douglas youngster and he stood four under with nine to play. Birdies were collected 10 and 13 before that closing onslaught.

2001 champion (as an 11-year- old) Kevin Metcalfe raced home in 22 second time to finish third on 100.  His closing 49 (helped in no small measure by five birdies in a row from the tenth) ensured that the Rochfortbridge youngster pipped halfway leader Owen Cotter (Douglas) on the tiebreaker. 

Reigning champion Marian Byrne’s (now Mrs Marian Courtney) title defence in the 1992 National Girls Strokeplay Championship got off to the best possible start with a two at Fermoy’s opening hole and with bogeys at the second, fifth, eighth and the tricky short 17th offset by further birdies at the 3rd, 13th and 15th, she posted an impressive level par 54. That gave the St. Bridget’s starlet a two stroke cushion over fellow Kildare player Grainne Gill (Irish Ropes).

The local supporters had high hopes for a successor to Eleanor Walsh (winner in 1978 and in 1982) in Sharon Bowes. The Fermoy player started promisingly with a two at the first but a double bogey on 3 and an unfortunate six at the 14th checked her progress. Her 61 left her with some work to do. In Round 2, Marian Byrne dropped two strokes early on but a birdie at the 6th steadied the ship and with 28 to the turn, Marian was still in command.

Sharon Bowes’ championship now gathered momentum. Again, she birdied the first. A four at the fourth was a setback but a run of four birdies in five holes from the fifth, which although mixed a double bogey at the (big bank) eighth, gave the local girl an outward 25, four back of the leader.

Four fours in six holes from the tenth would ultimately cost Marian Byrne dear. A birdie at 17 got her home in 30 for a 58 and a cumulative 112.

Sharon struck first in the play-off (the Girls’ Championship’s first-ever), with another two at the opening hole. A four by Marian at the third left the Cork player two ahead. The crucial incident of the extra holes came at the next where Marian was penalised two strokes for a rules infraction.

Sharon bogeyed five and six to give Marian some hope but a Fermoy two at the 7th gave Sharon a three shot lead with two to play. Marian finished in style (3, 2) for a 29 but Sharon parred the last for a 28 and the title.

The gallery was treated to a very exciting finish to the 2001 National Girls’Strokeplay Championship in ideal conditions (warm and dry after Saturday's deluge) at Waterford Crystal. Sarah Coffey (Kilbeggan) holed a seven foot downhill birdie putt on the 36th green to tie clubhouse leader Valerie Leahy (Rocklodge), the Cork Strokeplay and Matchplay champion, on 118. Sarah Coffey then shot a steady level par 27 (one bogey, one birdie) to win by three from Valerie Leahy (granddaughter of the great Eileen Dilworth), who was seeking to add the Irish title to the Munster Strokeplay and Matchplay titles she won earlier in the season. Sarah Coffey opened with a 61 to trail Valerie Leahy by two at the halfway stage in regulation play. The Kilbeggan player reaped the just reward for calling a penalty shot on herself at the 14th in the second round when the ball moved a fraction as she addressed a par putt. Her three over second round left her locked together with Valerie Leahy, who rued the 35th where she ran up a treble bogey six after pitching in the front bunker. Helen Metcalfe, the Leinster 14-15 Strokeplay champion from Rochfortbridge, took third place on 135.

Provincial 10-13 champion Sarah Coffey overcame the constraint of playing alongside a non-playing marker (Union Secretary Peg Smith stepped in when one of the competitors scratched). Most of the gallery (and main rival Valerie Leahy, who sportingly moved to congratulate her opponent) thought that Sarah's final green birdie meant a one shot win for the Kilbeggan player. Only then did the news of her honest act in calling a penalty on herself come to light. Sweet swinging Valerie Leahy, who also excelled at basketball, recovered after a slow start to take the 18-hole lead. Highlights of her opening round were birdies at 9, 11 (where she pitched majestically to just two feet behind the flag) and 18 where she downed a six-footer. Sarah Coffey chipped-in from right of the second green in the play-off to get back the shot she dropped at the first.  Crucially she made a great three at the fourth after pitching too strongly and some superb chipping from there on saw her safely home - the first Westmeath winner since 1984.

The 2013 championship at Pfizer was played in dry, windy conditions. Deerpark players Michael Cronin and Conor McCarthy carded impressive first eighteens of 48, to hold a three shot lead over the chasing bunch comprising Ian O’Donoghue (Pfizer), Edward Walsh (Majestic), Cian Morrison (Douglas) and Adam Bulman (Claycastle), who were all bracketed on 51.

Conor McCarthy added a 51 second eighteen and he finished level with Edward Walsh (Majestic) who returned 48 for his second round. In many respects, the 36th hole was the key as Conor made birdie while Edward took bogey. Creagh Courtney (Deerpark) was third on 101. A nine-hole play-off over holes 1 to 5 and 15 to 18 saw Conor emerge victorious by a two shot margin.

Cork won the 1981 Inter-County Championship at Parteen after an exciting three holes playoff with Meath. Both had tied with scores of 653 (all scores counted in a six-person team) for the 36 holes event. Cork had led at the halfway stage by two shots.

In the play-off Cork returned 54 (level par) while Meath carded 55. It ended in dramatic fashion, as Cork captain (and last player out), Alan Moore arrived at the third hole with his team three strokes ahead. A hole in one by Alan’s fellow competitor Martin Casey of Meath suddenly blew the championship wide open but a steady par three by Moore gave Cork the Tommy Murphy Cup for the first time. Dublin finished on 656, three strokes behind Cork and Meath. Cork scores in the playoff were Alan Moore 8, Pat Wills 8, Noel O'Leary 9, John O'Leary (who will represent Cork at Rocklodge in September 2022) 9, Kieran Kearney 10, John Costello 10. Meath dropped three strokes on the second hole of the play-off.

Details: 1st Cork 653 (Alan Moore 105,Pat Wills 106, Kieran Kearney 107, John Costello 108, John O'Leary 110, Noel O'Leary 117).

2nd Meath 653 (Martin Casey, Sean Downes, Gerard Dunphy, D McDonald, Dermot McGillick, Aidan Feely).

Down at the end of a fourteen team field in the 1996 Inter-County championship at Ballinlough, Cork played alongside holders Louth. Louth had no survivors from the successful 1995 quintet and didn’t figure on this occasion. Cork hadn’t won since 1991 and were still smarting from their lowly eighth place in Drogheda a year previously.

Young William Cahill shot 53 for the Leesiders while Donal Bradley, who had played in 1995, scored 50. William’s brother John, who also figured in 1995, fired 49. Stephen Kavanagh was round in 54. Anchorman Douglas’ Cathal Foley (who would win the following day’s Strokeplay Championship) produced an excellent 48 to leave Cork on 16 under and four clear heading in to the second round.

A blond young man from Nenagh, Matt O’Gara really got going over that second eighteen. He holed in one on the 16th to put the final gloss on a simply marvellous performance. Matt’s 45 formed the best individual 18 of the day by two shots.Next in for Tipperary was Eddie Walsh. What a pity that his commendable 49 was all in vain after his opening 65. Brian Maher added 51 to finish on 100. Ian Delahunty put 53 alongside his opening 54 for 107. Reigning Munster Strokeplay and Matchplay champion Paul O’Brien posted 50 for a total of 103.

That left Tipperary safely in the clubhouse having set a target of 403, that’s 29 under par.

Just as Paul O’Brien (who would go to win European and World titles with Ireland) putted out on the home green, the Cork team were setting out on their second round. The reaction of the Cork contingent was muted as their favourites failed to pick up many shots over the early holes.

Eventually Cork’s quintet arrived on the 36th tee needing three birdies to overhaul Tipperary. Thirteen-year-old William Cahill pitched to five feet right of the stick at the last. The putt was expertly holed. The next three home county players all made pars. Amid amazing scenes, Cathal Foley birdied the final hole, to tie Cork on 403 with Tipperary and send the juvenile inter-county into a play-off for the second time.

Over the customary three extra holes, Matt O’Gara birdied the third to give Tipperary an early advantage. William Cahill returned level threes. Stephen Kavanagh made two on the 34 metre 1st but gave the shot back at the second and gained no ground on Eddie Walshe who made three straight pars. Donal Bradley birdied the second for Cork to level matters when Brian Maher shot 9 (even par). Ian Delahunty put Tipperary ahead with a dyke at the second but John Cahill (who was National Matchplay finalist in 2022) converted his birdie effort on the third. It all came down to the last group on the course. Both Cathal Foley and Paul O’Brien found the third green. Paul putted first and was most unlucky to see his effort hit the hole and spin out. This left Cathal Foley with a downhill right-to-left three-footer for the Championship. In it went to the delight of the Cork fans.

There was an extraordinarily tight finish to the 2008 National Juvenile Inter-County Championship at Lakeside. 

Cork (Colin Sheehan 102, Chris O'Sullivan 102, Declan Sheehan 103, Frank Bruen 104, Josh Whelan 106) topped the leaderboard alongside near neighbours Kerry (Danny Roche 99, Craig Hickey 102, Darragh O'Keeffe 103, Kieran O'Keeffe 107, Kieran Looney 111). Under the rules pertaining at the time, the Leesiders were declared winners on the fifth card.

Louth (featuring 2022 National Junior Strokeplay champion Glen Martin alongside Robert Brodigan, John O'Rourke , Ciaran Byrne and Keith Boyle) took third spot with 419, ironically also on the fifth card from Westmeath.

During the mid to late noughties, a play-off was required to decide the Boys’ championship four times in a row. And 2008 champion Chris O’Sullivan (Pfizer) contested two of those showdowns.

In 2008, at Lakeside, Chris scored 49, 47 for 96 to catch club-mate Frank Bruen (still playing at a high level today in Raffeen Creek) on 96 (45, 51). Chris O'Sullivan won the playoff (22 to 24). Michael Darcy (Bruff) took third place on the back eighteen from Conor Slevin (KIlbeggan).

The following year at Portmarnock, Chris scored 48 and 49 to tie Brian Maloney (Majestic) 50, 47 and Dean Reid (CPM) 48, 49. Brian Maloney won the playoff (24 to 25 for O’Sullivan and 27 for Reid). Ciaran Byrne (Channonrock) was fourth on 98. The late Shane Murphy (Pfizer), who had led after the first round on 45, finished fifth.

2009 is the only year to date where play-offs were required in both Boys’ and Girls’ Championships. Clare Keatinge (Old County) and Clare Martin (Stackallen) could not be separated after two rounds at Portmarnock, each carding 62, 61. Clare Keatinge won the play-off (29 to 30).
with Lucan’s Kate Whyte third on 126.

John O'Rourke (St. Patrick's) survived a nine–hole play-off (25 to 31) for the 2006 Championship at Lakewood, after tieing on 101 with Aaron Cuddihy (CPM).  Karl Vogelaar (McBride) took third on the second 18 from Niall Quigley (Cloghogue) after both scored 102.

Son of the legendary Seamus, Darragh Rogers (Portmarnock) scored 47, 51 at Seapoint to finish level in the 2007 Championship with Craig Hickey (Deerpark). Darragh Rogers won the play-off (21 to 25) while Paul Cribben (Castletown) took third on 100.

Laura Coffey denied Claire Keatinge (Old County) a second National Girls Strokeplay crown in succession when the Kilbeggan player won a nine-hole playoff for the 2010 championship at Kilbeggan after the pair had finished deadlocked on 112. Aine Egan (Kilbeggan) took the bronze medal following her 122 return.

Claire Keatinge would regain the trophy the following year at this Saturday’s venue Deerpark back in 2011.

Sophie Farnan (Skryne) defeated Eimear Ahern (Lucan) in a playoff for the 2019 Girls Championship at Glenville. Eimear had added a 59 to her opening 63 to end up level with Sophie who signed for 58 and 64. Eimear’s sister Maebh Ahern (Lucan) took third on the back eighteen from Sarah Cooney (Seapoint) who is the defending champion this year.