Monkstown bounced back from a heart-breaking Munster final loss last year, and secured their first Senior Cup pennant for 53 years.
Monkstown Golf Club banished the harsh memories from last year as the bounced back to win the AIG Senior Cup Munster final. Losses in finals, especially on the final green can generate mental scar tissue, but the Monkstown team showed no signs of weakness as they negotiated their way through a semi-final match against Ballybunion and a final win over Castletroy. That’s not to say that Monkstown didn’t have some battles along the way. The South Munster winners went to work early on Saturday morning and built up a quick lead over Ballybunion on the front nine. By the time all five matches had left the quarry, Monkstown were up in four matches and level in the other. It looked as if Monkstown would sail home but Ballybunion dug in and took the match right to the end. Eoghan Long and Martin Poucher brought in the first two points for Monkstown but both Donal McDonnell and Sean Desmond lost on the 18th. That meant that Nick Moore needed to win his match to put Monkstown through. The 18th was halved meaning it was on to the 19th, and after a great drive, Moore pitched the ball to less than two feet from 140 yards. Ballybunion were in trouble in trees and were still 20 feet away after three shots. After a missed putt the match was conceded, sending Monkstown through to their second successive final. Team Manager Pat O’Keeffe, reshuffled his team, Moore went off first followed by McDonnell. Martin Poucher moved up to the third match, with Desmond fourth and Eoghan Long anchoring the team.
As expected Castletroy’s Andrew McCormack got off to a good start against Nick Moore, but Moore made him work for his win and held on until the 17th before McCormack won. Poucher and Long wrapped up their matches early, but McDonnell lost out on the 18th. That left Monkstown’s chances in the hands of Sean Desmond. The 18-year-old needed a half on the 18th to win the match and it looked doubtful when his second found the trees on the 18th. Desmond played a great recovery shot that saw his ball pitch short of the green and run on to 15 feet. Desmond calmly rolled the ball to less than a foot and that was enough to win the match and the crucial winning point for Monkstown. “The lie on the 18th wasn’t great, the ball was on top of a lot of leaves and there were a few tree roots and rocks near the ball” said Desmond recalling the shot, “But I was able to make a half swing which enabled me to hit the shot. Cian O’Donnell was on the green so I had to go for it. I saw the ball come out and roll onto the green and then heard the roar from the crowd. I was obviously delighted but very relieved as well.” Desmond left his putt stone dead, meaning a half for the hole and the title for Monkstown.
Eoghan Long was one of the Monkstown team from last year, and he was crucial on Saturday, winning both of his matches. He explained how the team bounced back from last year. “Once we got over our initial disappointment we were really determined to make a big effort this year and go one step further” said Long. “While last year was the first Senior Cup final, a few of us also played in the Barton Shield Munster final in 2009 so we really didn’t want to lose another final. Combining this experience and some very talented young golfers coming through, we were determined to improve on last year’s loss.”
He went on the praise the backup that the team have received: “Huge credit must go to the team management of Pat O’Keeffe, Martin Walsh and club professional Cian McNamara. Their professional approach, support and encouragement really drove the team on and motivated everyone to try and get back to the Munster finals again. Before the final the mood was very encouraging and we were always focusing on the positives. Having won a tight semi-final everyone was determined to play our best golf and bring the Cup back to Monkstown. It was a massive day for the club and you could really see what it meant to everyone with the amount of supporters that were there on the day.”
Team Manager Pat O’Keeffe was a happy man as he accepted the pennant on behalf of the club. “This is the proudest day that we have experienced in a long, long time” said the proud team manager. “It’s not easy to lose and twelve months ago we were heartbroken. The old saying that you have to lose one to win one was never truer. We learned a lot last time and this year the lads delivered. The squad put in a huge amount of work, they left no stone unturned and it was magnificent to get the result. I’d like to thank our own officers, the support we received has been magnificent. Also the generosity shown by Cork Golf Club will never be forgotten, we’d like to thank the Captain, members and staff of Cork Golf Club, and especially Matt Sands and Peter Hickey for all that they have done.”
“It is so difficult to get out of Cork in this competition and we have had so many years when we couldn’t cross that hurdle” continued O’Keeffe. “So to do this two years in a row is a great achievement for the squad. The heartbreak of last year made us more determined this year, and the arrival of Martin Poucher to Monkstown has contributed enormously to this success. We have a very committed squad of nine players with everybody pushing for a place. This contributed hugely to our win on Saturday as practice rounds were vigorously contested. Monkstown’s previous success was 1954 and 1963, so 53 years has been a long wait for the club. That team of ‘63 contained Egan, Baker, Fluery, O’Sullivan and Williams, internationals of the highest quality. No stone will be left unturned in trying to win our first ever Senior Cup Pennant. This was a very special occasion for the families of Long’s, McDonnell’s and Moore’s as their fathers and grandfathers have been dynasties of our club. To say we are looking forward our first time in Carton House is an understatement. The wonderful support of the yellow jerseys was a huge factor in Cork, and hopefully many will make that journey with us on 16th September.”
Desmond has that Winning Touch Again
12 months ago Sean Desmond won a dramatic match on the 20th green in Dungarvan to take Monkstown to a Senior Cup Munster Final. Unfortunately for Desmond and Monkstown, Limerick beat them that day in the final. But this year Monkstown are champions and Sean Desmond was again the hero, claiming the winning point for Monkstown on the 18th. Desmond needed a win after Martin Poucher and Eoghan Long won their matches. Opponents Castletroy also won two matches, which left it all resting on Desmond’s match. Desmond had the edge on Castletroy’s Cian O’Donnell for much of the match, and was three up playing the 14th. O’Donnell won the 14th to put some pressure on Desmond – who responded in turn with a birdie on 16 to go back to three up with three holes remaining. Despite the advantage, the win wasn’t secured until the 18th green when a great recovery from the trees gave Desmond a winning half, and gave Monkstown the title.
Needless to say, the 18-year-old was delighted with the win and somewhat amused that the overall result again came down to his match. “No, I didn’t think I’d get the chance to do it again” said Desmond commenting on his final hole heroics, “Last year was unbelievable but this year was even sweeter with it being the final and winning the Senior Cup for the first time in 53 years. Massive credit has to go to every other member of the squad, especially the lads who won their matches early on. You need three points to win a senior cup match – not just one on the 18th. Nick Moore was awesome for getting us through to the final by making birdie on the 19th in the semi-final. That was huge and gave us a lot of confidence going into the final.”
While Desmond appeared to be cruising, O’Donnell’s birdie on the 14th narrowed the gap to 2 holes. Desmond responded on the next hole but the was more tension to follow as he described: “The birdie on 15 was massive. I put my second shot in close and that put me three up with three to play. It was really tough finish though, Cian nearly held his second shot on the 16th to win the hole and then I missed a putt on 17 which would have won the match. Going onto 18 I was just trying to stay calm which wasn’t easy but John Herbert who had caddied for me helped me a lot going down the 18th. Obviously I was nervous because there were hundreds of people there from Monkstown. I know how much it meant to all of the members and I didn’t want to let them down.”
Joy for Cork, disappointment for Fermoy
The other local clubs had mixed fortunes over the weekend. Cork triumphed in the Barton Shield but Fermoy lost out in their bid to win a Junior Cup pennant. Cork’s Barton Shield team featured one change, in-form Brian Kelleher was brought into the team with Paul Tobin losing out in what must have been a tight call for manager John Carroll. Cork saw off the challenge from 2015 winners Limerick in the morning semi-final and in a tight game the home club recovered from an early deficit to level the match after 8 holes. Cork took the lead and by the time the matches reached the 14th, Cork had a firm grip on the game. The went on to win by four holes, while Tramore had a good win over Tralee on the other side of the draw. The final was set up to be an exciting affair but Cork took control early and set the tone. Cork were five up by the time their second pair got through the sixth hole, and they refused to let Tramore back into the match. Mark Ford and Brian Kelleher led the tone for Cork in their match against Paul Flynn and Declan King, they were four up through 12 holes and were heading for a good win. Gary O’Flaherty and John Hickey were playing in the back match and they too kept a firm hold on their game. They were three up playing the 15th, and a half there meant Cork were seven up with six to play. All that was left was for team manager John Carroll to accept the pennant and present it to Cork Captain Damien Wallace.
Fermoy showed great form when qualifying for the area final at home in July, and they showed tenacity and perseverance in the South Munster final when they beat a strong Bandon side on the 19th hole in Blarney. Hopes were high that the North Cork men would be up for the challenge of a Munster semi-final against Tralee but the Kerry side proved too strong. Tralee got off to a strong start, claiming wins in all five matches on the early holes. The links based club made the most of the firm conditions in Cork Golf Club. Tralee played some excellent golf, preventing Fermoy from getting a back into the match and the went on to win the first three matches home. Tralee went on to win the Munster final with a comprehensive win over Co Tipperary. Having shown some great form in the earlier stages, Fermoy will no doubt be disappointed with the result. For Cork the journey will continue and they will face into an All-Ireland semi-final with the Ulster winners in Carton House in September.