Muskerry Golf Club bridged a 61 year gap yesterday when they won the AIG Barton Shield. There hasn’t been a Cork winner for over 20 years, so it is a huge achievement for the players to go all the way and win the prestigious national title. Huge numbers turned out at the club last night as the victorious team returned home with the trophy. Muskerry last won in 1953 and although they had success at both Bruen and Junior Cup level, a win in the top ranks eluded the proud club. Anyone who has followed the Cork area matches in the Barton will look back to their 19th hole win in the area quarter-final against Cork, or their 20th hole win over Mallow on the same day as the some of the key matches in their quest for victory. While Muskerry had their share of dramatic wins in Douglas in June, their matches this week were won in far less dramatic fashion.
For players David O’Donovan, Niall Gorey, Daniel Hallissey and John Waldron, team manager Greg O’Sullivan and reserves Conor O’Riordan and Shane Whooley, all the matches, practicing, and travels to Shannon and Carton House were rewarded with an outstanding display of golf when it really mattered. On Wednesday they recorded a huge 10 hole aggregate win over Athenry in the semi-final. Niall Gorey and David O’Donovan were first out and they won five up. John Waldron and Daniel Hallissey were in similar form in the second pairing, they too recorded a five hole win. The final against Warrenpoint was a stiffer test, although Gorey and O’Donovan got off to a flier and birdied the two opening holes for two hole lead. They went on to birdie the 6th and 7th and had a four hole lead at the turn. The only blemish on their card was a bogey on 16 when an uncharacteristic three put cost them the hole. They bounced back however and won the 17th with a birdie and at that stage they knew that a half on 18th was enough for the title. O’Donovan hit the drive of his life, a 330 yard blast that finished in the middle of the fairway. Gorey obliged with a tasty wedge to the centre of the green and they each took a putt on the way to recording a par and a title winning half.
In the second match, Daniel Hallissey and John Waldron weren’t having the same luck, Warrenpoint took an early four hole lead although a 25 foot birdie putt from Hallissey on the 9th cut their momentum. Another birdie on 15 put them right back in contention and considering the pair closed out two previous matches on tie holes, this time they had the pleasure of finishing on the 17th green as the match was won.
For Muskerry member Dave O’Donovan, it was a dream come through: “I’m playing golf in a Muskerry jumper for 22 years and I sometimes wondered if it would ever happen. It’s always so hard to get out of Cork.” He was happy too that they peaked at the right time: “we played the best golf of the year this week, we had a great win yesterday and Niall and myself were five under today. We had fantastic support there today and they were very vocal. I’ve had great support too from my friends and especially my wife Jen, it’s a huge commitment to play team golf at this level.”
Playing partner Niall Gorey was quick to put the national win into context, as a winner inter-pro player and Irish international, he was clear on where this win stood; “It’s bigger, although we had great times in international matches and winning the inter-provincials, but this is winning it with your friends and winning it for your club. It’s a unbelievable feeling to win.”
Although Daniel Hallissey is the youngest of the four, he was also the only one to have won at national level. Daniel was part of the 2007 double winning team that won the Bruen and Junior Cup, although he’s quick to say that it was the unhappy memories from Castlerock in 2011 that motivated him. Muskerry won Munster in the Irish Senior Cup and lost out at semi-final stage and Daniel still remembers it vividly: “2011 was tough, going out at the semi-final stage was terrible but today is absolutely great”. Hallissey is keen to share the credit, especially to his playing partner Waldron and coach Fred Twomey: “John was unbelievable today, he holed a 25 foot birdie putt from off the green on 15 to win the hole and you just know the putt was in all the way. Fred too has been instrumental in the campaign and he know’s the team inside out.” Twomey was a key part of the support team for the 2007 double and played an important role in preparing the squad of six golfers for this campaign. Hallissey now becomes possibly the only golfer to have won national honours in Barton Shield, Jummy Bruen and Irish Junior Cup. At Munster level he can add a Senior Cup title to his roll of honour and given that fact he’s 24, there’s a good chance that he’ll add to that in the future.
AIG Barton Shield Final
Muskerry bt Warrenpoint 3 holes
(Muskerry names first)
Niall Gorey & Dave O’Donovan bt William Hanna & Stephen Coulter 5 holes; Daniel Hallissey & John Waldron lost to Colm Campbell & Ryan Gribben 2 holes