Kinsale claimed Munster honours in style yesterday when they won two tough matches to win the AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield. It was their first win at this level, and in what was a surprise to many, it was their first pennant in a Cups and Shields event. The Kinsale team appeared comfortable on the Philip Walton designed course in Dundrum Golf and Country Club. The twelve players that were used on Sunday, along with the extended panel and team manager John O’Neill have put their names into the Kinsale club history books, winning their first pennant in a national competition in their 106 year history. It was an early start for Kinsale in Dundrum and the first task on the agenda for Kinsale was their semi-final against West Waterford.
Although things were looking tough as they started the back nine, Kinsale rallied and the match was balanced on 2-2 with just one match left on the course. Kinsale’s final pair had been two up with two to play but lost the 17th and were one up playing the 18th. After two good drives West Waterford’s approach made the front of the green but Kinsale’s approach left them in a greenside bunker. With the green running away from him, Aidan Cremin played a great shot from the bunker, leaving his ball no less than four feet from the hole which. His partner Ruairi Dwyer stepped up to sink the putt and put Kinsale through to the final. In the afternoon final they faced Nenagh who had beaten Thurles in a sudden death play-off in their semi final. Kinsale started strongly and although they held a slight lead overall they couldn’t pull away from Nenagh as the match reached the turn. The back nine in Dundrum is a tough test and proved to be decisive in Kinsale’s win. While their first pairing of Anthony Barry and James Walsh were a few down the pair battled on from the 13th to 16th to give themselves a chance. It was the third pairing of Brian O’Neill and Barry Dwyer who secured the first point for Kinsale, the pair wrapped up their match on the 14th green with an impressive 5&4 win. At that stage Walsh and Barry ran out of holes and lost their match on the 16th.
The next match finished soon after with the young Kinsale pairing of Keith Webb and Robbie Walsh winning on the 16th. The score was 2-1 to Kinsale but the match was far from decided as both pairings left on the course were all square. It would take another 30 minutes before the next result came in. It looked like Kinsale’s fourth pairing of Paul Shanahan and Rhys Reynolds would decide the match. The pairing were not involved in the morning semi-final and the momentum swung their way when the won the 16th after Nenagh found trouble. Kinsale were one up playing 17, and Reynolds made a great lag putt on the green after Nenagh had an approach to inside three feet. Kinsale holed out for a par four and when Nenagh missed a three foot birdie putt the advantage remained with the Kinsale side. Holding their honour on the tee, Paul Shanahan stood up and hit a huge drive that split the fairway. Nenagh found a fairway bunker, adding to the pressure they were already under. Reynolds approach from 145 yards found the edge of the 18th green and from there it was obvious that Kinsale would claim the third point to give them the win and the title. The final Kinsale pairing of Cremin and Dwyer, who shouldered all the pressure in the morning, had the luxury of being called in. It was a proud moment for Kinsale club captain Brian Doran as he was presented with the coveted blue pennant.
In his speech the Captain congratulated the team and their Manager John O’Neill, and he thanked all of the members and supporters for cheering on the team. On Monday he reflected on the historic occasion for the club. “The club is on a high after Sunday, with so many messages of support and good wishes” said the Captain. “Over the years the club has come close to a pennant in the national competitions, but to win one you need that little something extra, and I this panel and managers have that. Playing good golf is only part of the package, and preparation, self-belief and heart as just as necessary. The matches on Sunday were to close, only to be expected at this point of the competition. Despite their delight, the whole team know this is the first step and their thoughts will quickly move on to Thurles in October.”
It was also the happy end of a chapter for team manager John O’Neill. “106 years is a long time to wait, we’re tired but we’re smiling” said a delighted O’Neill. “This story started five years ago with huge commitment from the panel, but with very little success until Sunday. There were 18 players on the panel, so it was a difficult decision to pick the team for Sunday’s matches as each pairing was as strong as the next. In the morning we put out a very strong team and in the evening we freshened it up by swapping out pairings to keep momentum and also because of the very warm weather conditions. I would especially like to thank the families of the players who put up with an awful lot of time being spent away from home. All we ever wanted to do was put a pennant on the wall of the club and hopefully this is the key to the door for all the teams that will come after us. The plans now are that we will take a break for a couple of weeks and leave the fellas get back to their families. After a couple of weeks we’ll wind it up again and hit it hard.”