Ballykisteen are All-Ireland champions for the first time after winning the GUI Four-Ball Championship at Millicent. Above – The winning Ballykisteen team. Image by Pat Cashman Club captain James Keane was the toast of Ballykisteen when he combined with Christopher Conway to seal the winning point against Royal Curragh. Keane holed a crucial par putt at the 17th to give them a one-hole lead in the top match and with Royal Curragh struggling at the last, Ballykisteen eased to victory.
“I’ve dreamt of this for 22 years,” said Keane. “To be captain this year and for this to happen is just absolutely brilliant. We’ve had so many disappointments in the past. This is kind of something special.”
It was by no means a stress-free affair for the champions. Although they had two points on the board following big wins for William Hanly and Pat Toomey (5&4) and Michael Ryan and Peter O’Donnell (6&5), Royal Curragh remained firmly in contention.
Ahead in three matches, Royal Curragh still had the title in their sights. Stephen Kinneavy and Patrick Mangan enjoyed a two-hole lead after nine holes of the top match but their advantage dwindled on the back nine.
Ballykisteen trailed by one playing 15 when Conway produced a superb iron shot to set up a winning par. After halving 16, Keane stepped up at the penultimate hole, two putting from 90 feet.
“It was just point the putter in the right direction and close the eyes,” said Keane, who left himself five feet for par. “I was pale standing over that putt.” The colour returned to his face as the ball rolled smoothly towards the cup. Solid drives down 18 relieved more tension but the pressure took its toll on their opponents. Kinneavy found the water with his drive and Mangan played a wrong ball in his haste to make par. “We had to dig deep,” said Christopher Conway. “This is a nice thing to win, for me anyway, at this hour of my life. I’m 58 now. You don’t get too many more chances.” Having seized their moment, the day belonged to Ballykisteen. “I’m ecstatic over it all,” said team captain Kevin O’Hora. “At the start of the year, all we really wanted to do was beat our near neighbours, Co Tipperary. That was the objective of the whole exercise. We’ve worked off a panel of 14 players. They’re mighty men. They delivered in spades.” Ballykisteen 4 Royal Curragh 1 (Ballykisteen names first) James Keane & Chris Conway beat Stephen Kinneavey & Patrick Mangan 2 holes; William Hanly & Pat Toomey beat Thomas Powell & Shane O’Callaghan 5&4; Ray Kelly & Adrian Usher halved with Ricky Geraghty & John Delaney; Brendan O’Keefe & Mark Timmons halved with Derek Kelly & Frank Archbold; Michael Ryan & Peter O’Donnell beat Paul Murphy & Stephen Schwer 6&5.
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