Warrenpoint have retained their AIG Barton Shield title, piling more misery upon last year’s finalists Galway to become All-Ireland champions for the seventh time.
In a repeat of the 2016 decider, also at Carton House, Warrenpoint proved too good for the Connacht champions, who suffered their third successive final defeat. The ‘Point have become Barton Shield specialists in recent seasons and this was their third All-Ireland win since 2011.
With three of last year’s side — Ryan Gribben replacing injured AIG Irish Close Champion Jamie Fletcher — Paul Reavey partnered Stephen Coulter in the top match while Gribben was paired with Irish international Colm Campbell Junior.
Reavey and Coulter enjoyed the perfect start, winning the first and second and from there they never trailed. Galway’s Ronan Mullarney and Liam Power struck early to lead against Campbell and Gribben but Warrenpoint went ahead at the sixth. Through eight, the ‘Point were two up, and while Galway pinched 11 and 15, Warrenpoint hit back each time.
Inevitably, Galway ran out of holes and Warrenpoint finished four clear, winning back-to-back titles for the second time, having previously claimed successive victories in 1987 and ’88.
“It was no easier than it was last year, beating the Galway lads,” said team captain Colm Campbell Senior. “What turned the game was when Paul (Reavey) holed a super putt for birdie on 16, and Junior stood up after him and holed another super putt for birdie on 16.”
For Reavey, experience unlocked those key moments: “It stands us in great stead when it comes down to the crunch. They are a great bunch of lads and you know you can always depend on them.”
Warrenpoint came to Carton still nursing the pain of an agonising defeat to Royal Portrush in the Ulster Semi-Final of the AIG Senior Cup.
“The Senior Cup was a massive loss for us,” said Campbell. “We would have been very disappointed had we lost today. But we are good losers as well as good winners. We’d have taken it on the chin but fair play to Galway. I am sure they are very disappointed. It is tough. But maybe they will go on and do well in the Senior Cup. It is hard to win both.”
Galway at least have the consolation of a tilt at the AIG Senior Cup when they play Royal Portrush in tomorrow’s semi-finals. That will not take from the sting of a third final defeat as Warrenpoint returned home with the shield after a successful title defence.