One Sunday every summer, as the song goes, the pilgrims climb the reek.
Westport Golf Club, a stunning set beneath Croagh Patrick’s brooding peak, is a shrine for devotees of a different kind this week. Golfers from all four provinces are travelling to Co Mayo in search of glory on the greens.
Five club championships are down for decision at the AIG Cups and Shields Finals, which begin on Friday (20 September). Limerick, chasing a rare Senior Cup-Barton Shield double, get proceedings underway in the semi-finals of the Barton Shield against Warrenpoint. By Friday afternoon, they will either be halfway towards that double or regrouping ahead of their Senior Cup semi-final on Saturday against Galway, which is a repeat of the 2017 final won by the Connacht side.
While Limerick are among the headline acts, every challenger is chasing a dream. For the host club, all eyes are on the Junior Cup, which offers Westport the chance to savour All Ireland glory on their home patch. Champions once before, at Lahinch in 1980, Westport suffered three heartbreaking losses between 2006 and 2017. Those defeats – at Enniscrone in ‘06, at Royal Tara in 2013, and at Carton House in ‘17 – have not deterred a committed cohort of players. But will playing at home feel like a comfort? Saturday’s semi-final against Ulster champions, Malone, will tell a tale.
Clubs such as Massereene (Senior Cup), Carton House (Senior Cup) Dundalk (Barton Shield), Dun Laoghaire (Junior Cup), Roscommon (Jimmy Bruen Shield), Tandragee (Jimmy Bruen Shield) and Rossmore (Pierce Purcell Shield) have yet to win on this stage. For them, success this week would seem like fairytale stuff.
Then there are serial winners hungry for more: Warrenpoint and Co Sligo in the Barton Shield; Galway in the Senior Cup; Nenagh and The Island in the Jimmy Bruen Shield.
At the AIG Cups and Shields Finals, agony and ecstasy are never far apart. Golf, when played in team format, magnifies emotion. Some soar and more despair but the spectacle never loses its appeal.
Full Programme & Schedule HERE