It has been 16 long years since Douglas Golf Club have won a Mens national title and next week their Junior Cup team will head for Carton House hoping to capture a coveted green pennant at the AIG Cups and Shields Finals. Douglas successfully navigated their way through four matches in the South Munster qualifiers before winning their Munster semi-final and final matches in Dungarvan. Over the course of the six matches, the squad and management have proved themselves worthy of winning national honours.
Building on the successful junior golf platform which was pioneered and run by Junior Officers Ray Quinn and Tony Keegan among others, Douglas have used plenty of their young talented golfers in advancing through Munster. “There are eight golfers on the panel, six of them under 19 years of age” explained the Douglas team manager Derek Byrne. “The six were involved in the Fred Daly Munster victory in 2014. They lost in the Irish semi-final at Ardglass and now know the sour taste of defeat at that Irish Finals stage. The difference now is the provincial success last year in the Fred Daly has ignited their belief and confidence. No doubt this came from the juvenile officer Tony Keegan & Ray Quinn’s management structure put in place a few years ago, along with the input from our club Pro Stephen Hayes.”
Byrne himself was a member of the Douglas Junior Cup team in 1999 that brought a national title to the club. He’s played with and supported many teams since then and he feels that momentum is a big factor working in their favour: “Golf has moved on a lot since 1999 as can be seen from the amount of scratch or plus handicap golfers nowadays compared to 16 years ago. However the handicap band for Junior cup has not moved thus having a lot of 3-4 handicap golfers not given the chance to represent their club. The key to winning the Junior Cup is to have a number of players coming down in handicap together in the same year. At the start of this 2015 campaign our 5 players had a combined handicap of 26, now its 18.”
Adding to his own experience of Junior Cup success, and more recently playing at Senior Cup level, Derek has surrounded himself with two very experienced assistants. Douglas members Eavan Higgins is a former Irish international golfer and selector and Douglas Club Professional Stephen Hayes also played at the highest level as an amateur. Analysis plays a big part in the approach taken by the management team as Derek explains: “We know each players score and performance for every hole during the campaign and this allows us to make the call on selection. The experience provided by Eavan Higgins, a former ILGU & LGU selector has been invaluable during the campaign. The approach we take is to have practice sessions and drills that pinpoint player’s weaknesses, then we can action these through our Pro Stephen. The same team of three has managed the Senior Cup, Barton and Junior Cup teams. All practice sessions were mixed so the Junior cup guys learned a lot from senior guys.” Byrne has one other tool at his disposal which he reckons can give them an edge: “As I’m a qualified Mind Factor coach we had various sessions which the guys have enjoyed and benefited from. We also go through strategy for every set of matches in a meeting room environment. This has definitely settled and calmed the guys minds, focusing on their own performance rather that looking at the opposition. It also gives them a roadmap for what is required to get through every match.”
Byrne’s eye for detail and analysis was evident when asked about the current form of his squad as he proudly listed some of the recent achievements: “Philip Quinn won the Cork Junior Scratch in August, Adam McSweeney won the Ford Junior Scratch Cup this year in Muskerry, and that was previously won by our panellist John O Mahony. Darren Hourihan has won 6 out of 6 so far and also won his senior cup match this year, he is trying to accomplish what Mick Crowley achieved on the 1999 team by winning 100% of his matches. We were narrowly beaten in the Fred Daly Trophy this year – on the 19th hole by finalists Kinsale, but went on to win the Fred Daly Munster Plate Final last Sunday.”
Team member Philip Quinn is a veteran of Cups & Shields campaigns and he’s delighted with the progress so far. Quinn said: “Derek has been a pleasure to deal with. He has been there and won an All-Ireland in 99 so naturally he has the complete respect of everyone on the panel. The levels of preparation are second to none by Derek, Stephen and Eavan and all we have to do is follow their instruction. I have never been involved in any team where we have been so well prepared from both the golf and mental side. As soon as we won the Munster title, Derek, Stephen and Eavan went and played Carton House and have then tailored our practice sessions to meet what they feel will be the key challenges in Carton. That is going way beyond the normal duties of selectors.”
This campaign is likely to be a memorable one for everyone involved with Douglas Golf Club. In a history spanning 106 years, Douglas have only won four national titles, three Irish Junior Cups and one Barton Shield title. Like Douglas, Muskerry and Cork have also won the Junior Cup title on three occasions. Now the club have a great chance to add to their own honour roll, and jump ahead of their local rivals. There are just two matches between them and another green pennant.
Dramatic Finish Part of the Douglas Game
Douglas seem to have a liking for dramatic finishes, they’ve been part of three of them so far in six matches. Douglas had a very straightforward route to the venue final in Cork Golf Club in July, recording 4-1 wins over both Raffeen Creek and Fermoy, but they had to endure a battle with neighbours Mahon to advance from the qualifier. With the score 2-2, all attention was on the final match where Sean Deasy (Mahon) was one up on Philip Quinn on the 17th. After a solid drive, Quinn played a near perfect approach to the tricky green leaving himself a 10 inch tap in birdie. Deasy was in trouble on the right and his birdie chip didn’t reach the green and conceded the hole after missing his par. After both players hit great drives right up the centre of the 18th fairway, Quinn’s approach ended up in the right fringe. Deasy aimed for the left of the green, but a slight pull was exaggerated by the tail wind and the ball very narrowly went out of bounds on the left. Deasy’s fourth shot found the front left edge of the green but Philip Quinn putted up to less than a foot. That’s was enough to give Douglas the win, and from there they went on to beat Bandon in the area-final.
It was much of the same in Dungarvan at the Munster finals. After winning a dramatic semi-final against Mitchelstown, Douglas faced Ballybunion in the final. Darren Hourihan again led Douglas from the front, wrapping up his win on the 13th. Adam McSweeney won the 10th and 11th which moved his match from one down to one up. He went on to win the 13th as well to build on the lead. He lost the 14th but crucially won the 16th to go two up with two to play. Ballybunion won the 17th with a great birdie, but McSweeney won the 18th with a birdie despite only needing a par for a half. Douglas did lose the third, but with two wins already in, they only needed one the two remaining matches to claim the win.
Barry O’Sullivan Geaney sealed the win in the morning semi-final, and in the final it would fall to him again to secure the win for the Douglas team. Although he trailed for most of the front nine, like McSweeeny he too won the 10th and 11th to tie the score. It wasn’t until the 17th that the young Douglas player took the lead, and with Ballybunion finding water on the 18th a win seemed certain. Ballybunion narrowly missed a chip for birdie but secured their par. O’Sullivan had a tricky 10 foot putt to win the hole but he wasn’t to be caught, he calmly two putted to win the third point and secure the Munster Pennant for Douglas.