Galway bid for their second AIG Senior Cup crown in three years when they play Carton House in this year’s final at Westport while the host club have their shot at glory in the AIG Junior Cup against Dun Laoghaire.
Victory for Galway in the Senior Cup semi-finals crushed Limerick’s dream of a championship double. The Barton Shield winners were beaten 3.5-1.5 in what was a repeat of the 2017 final. The Connacht champions are chasing their second title in three years.
“The lads knew they had to play their best to get over Limerick,” said Gerry Cox, Galway team captain. “We just need to go play our game tomorrow and see how that goes.”
Wins for Ronan Mullarney (3&2), Eddie McCormack (3&2) and Joe Lyons (5&3) sent Galway into Sunday’s decider, where they face first-time finalists Carton House.
“Carton House are a really, really strong panel,” Cox stated. “They have been knocking on the door for the last number of years.”
Beaten semi-finalists in 2013 and 2017, Carton finally cleared the penultimate hurdle. But they had it all to do against their Ulster opponents, Massereene. Anchorman Paul O’Hanlon recovered a three-hole deficit on the back nine to secure the winning point.
“It wasn’t looking good,” admitted team captain Brian Cunningham. “It wasn’t happening for Paul. He was up and he was down but he wasn’t getting any closer to his opponent. Then he holed a putt on 15. It dribbled into the hole for birdie and that brought him back to one down.”
O’Hanlon, Irish Close champion in 2008, played smartly over the closing stretch. His opponent, Ryan McCullagh, stumbled at 16 and never recovered. McCullagh went out of bounds with his second shot on 17 and hit water down the last. By winning the last four holes, O’Hanlon secured a final berth.
“Paul has done this before for us,” Cunningham revealed. “We were in the Leinster finals against Woodbrook and he was one down going down 18 and made a magnificent birdie then wins it up 19. He’s the man for the job absolutely.”
Carton had to make a late change to their line-up when Gary McDermott flared his back.
“Gary wakes up with a stiff back this morning, starts to hit a few balls, can’t swing,” Cunningham explained. “Dessie [Morgan] was standing in the car park so I legged it from the practice ground: ‘Dessie! Get your clubs. You’re playing.’ No better man than Des Morgan to take on a current Irish international with three swishes of the golf club.”
Although Morgan went down by two holes to Massereene’s number one, Tiarnán McLarnon, their match went all the way.
While Galway and Carton House pursue Senior Cup glory, host club Westport are chasing their Holy Grail in the Junior Cup. After victory over Malone in the semi-finals, the home favourites face Dun Laoghaire for the title.
“We’ve had a few close calls the last while and it hasn’t gone our way so hopefully now with home advantage and big support, we’ll be able to get it done,” said Westport team captain, Tony Bree.
Bree watched his side recover from a slow start against Malone: “It was not looking great after nine holes. We were down in three of the matches.”
Ronan Hehir took the top game 2&1 to put Westport on the board. In game two, Ronan Mahon clinched a vital one-hole win while Fergus Rothwell came through 3&2.
“Like a lot of matches around here, things turn on the back nine,” said Bree. “Our guys began to turn it around. We played some great golf.”
For Dun Laoghaire, it was a similar tale. Tramore looked the most likely winners until the final stretch. Four down after 11, Patrick McCann led Dun Laoghaire’s fightback to win on the last.
“We looked dead and buried early on and they just kept going, they kept fighting,” reflected Niall Keyes, Dun Laoghaire team captain. “They keep surprising, every time. They’ve put a huge amount of work in. We have them at it the whole time. They never moan. They get on and do it and when it comes to the crunch, it stands to them. That’s what happened today.”