Dublin Gents Strokeplay – Preview

This weekend sees the flagship event on the Dublin Calendar. The Gents Strokeplay takes centre stage in Finglas on Saturday and Sunday and it promises to be a highly charged weekend for a number of reasons.
The Erin’s Isle club are in the midst of their golden jubilee and this promises to be the showpiece event. The club are one of the best in Dublin and whenever they host championships the course is always in pristine condition, expect no different this weekend. They may not have large numbers of members but the onus is very much on quality than quantity, they have a number of people who run the show and they do it extremely well, they also have quality players across all three grades and in truth where they to walk away with all three winning prizes, it would not constitute a big surprise.
The County Board  is delighted to once again have a sponsor on board after a five year gap. The Drain Doctor manned by Old County’s Paul Griffin has stepped into the breaches and we are delighted to have them on board, you may have seen a number of Paul’s van’s going around the city looking after the job that most businesses don’t fancy. Paul will competing in the Inter event on Saturday as well. A big thank you to them.
The entry in this year’s event is very large and a high quality field is assembled making predicting a winner a tough choice. The switch back in 2012 to the Inter / Junior Event on the Saturday and the Senior event on the Sunday along with the absence of a qualifying round has seen large numbers entering and it is great to see so many players from different club’s holding this championship so high on their agenda,
The Junior Event will get the championship underway on Saturday morning and there is a sizeable field taking part. There could be a few contenders here and with a large number making the final round, it could be well into Saturday afternoon before we know our winner. Paul Dillon took the title in 2013 and Paul has made a smooth transition to the Inter grade where he should be among the front runners on Saturday. In his absence there is a sizeable Lucan contingent likely to challenge, their vice captain Stephen Needham is in a rich vein of form and David Lee and Jack King are two others well worth looking out for. For the host club Brian Flanagan should carry their hopes and Brian should be there or thereabouts in the final few holes. One of the revelations of the season so far has been Long Meadow’s Eric Doyle, this will be one of his last events as Junior and he will hope to go out in style. For experience and know how, you cannot beat Brendan Mullaly now playing in Ierne, Brendan is a former champ at this level and knows what is required to get over the line. CPM’s John O’Keeffe has played at senior level and on his day could well romp away with this title Another player to watch for is Old County’s Luke Birrell, who is finding his feet well in this section and his scores are improving rapidly, All told a very hard one to call and there could be as many as three or four in contention in the closing stretch.
Former Winners:  2013 Paul Dillon (Lucan), 2012: Kevin Redmond(Lucan), 2011: Brendan Mullaly(CYMC), 2010: Dean Gray(Glenville), 2009: Jack  Williams(Loughlinstown); 2008: Larry Fitzpatrick Junior(Portmarnock), 2007: Sean Dillon(Lucan) 2006: Bill Coghlan(Glenville), 2005:  Brian Donnelly(Glenville) 2004: Mark Heap(Lucan)
The Inter event will be an emotional one. Last May it took a play-off to separate Erins Isle club mates Glenn Woodward and Dave Donnelly. Two weeks later and Dave retained his Dublin matchplay title to hold both at the same time. What happened over the last six months for poor Dave shocked those that knew him at the Inter ranks of the sport. Dave would have loved to be in Erin’s Isle on Saturday to experience the atmosphere and watch the championship, but alas poor Dave lose his battle last week and the Inter section of Dublin pitch & Putt will be a much emptier place without Dave in the section. The Inter section is a large one with twenty players making the play-off, for the purpose of predictions. We have grouped players in the Likely Lads, contenders and dark horses sections as with all things it makes for interesting reading but can leave a person very embarrassed if someone from the pack strikes gold on Saturday.
The Likely Lads: Following on from his 2nd place in the last two years, surely Glenn Woodward’s day must come soon. Glenn has been hugely consistent in qualifiers and championships and on home soil he will be highly fancied on Saturday. Glenn’s club mate Charlie Egan is waiting on that elusive title, it is hard to believe given how good Charlie is. He too regularly features at the business end of championships, a runner up as recently as 2011, but has yet to get over the hurdle, for a lot of reasons he would dearly love to put that monkey to bed on Saturday. Another who should do well from the home contingent is Trevor Heffernan, Trevor is a regular low scorer and a former senior player. Outside of the home players, there are a few we expect to challenge strongly, Glenville’s Aaron O’Droighneain has made the move to senior and although Aaron has been an inter for many years he is now fulfilling the potential many knew he had. He now has the belief and a great temperament, expect big things from Aaron on Saturday. Lucan regularly have strong Inters and their best bet on Saturday might be Keith Maher, another with a great attitude and a championship winner in the Leinster Strokeplay in Castletown. Keith is right in form and if the putter is working he could well walk away with the cup.
The Contenders: One of the players making waves this  season is Old County’s Eric Byrne and hot on the heels of winning his club’s Captains, Eric has the confidence to mount a challenge on Saturday. Eric’s clubmate Liam O’Reilly who is another on his day could well find himself at the head of affairs if things go his way.  Lucan’s Tom McMorrow is one of the most consistent Inters in recent years and Tom had a great chance in the All Ireland in RGSC a few years ago, Tom would like to put that one behind him and land the title on Saturday. Lucan’s David Hayden II is a former champ in 2008 and runner up back in 2005, Dave is generally there or thereabouts and with his championship experience and nous he could go far on Saturday. The third of the Lucan leading lights will be Paul Dillon. Paul enjoyed a comfortable win last May in the Junior championship. He has adapted well to life in the Inters and will feel he can add the Inter one to the Junior one on Saturday. Loughlinstown’s have a fine pedigree in this section and their best hope may lie with Trevor Ward the 2009 Dublin Matchplay champion, Trevor was indeed runner up at this venue back in 2009 and knows his way around the “isles”. Brian Woodward might be slightly in the shadow of Glenn, but Brian can play too and will enjoy being under the radar on Saturday with the pressure on other home players.
The Dark Horses: CPM have enjoyed some excellent success in Dublin championships, it seems a long time ago since the talented Aaron Cuddihy sliced through the field with an impressive display in 2007. Dean Reid is one of the newer kids on the block and Dean has an excellent game that could well propel him into a challenging position on Saturday. The Sponsor Paul Griffin would dearly love to win the title and Paul has the pedigree to shoot a low score, he narrowly lost out to his clubmate Adam McGreal in Ierne in 2010. Genville have some good Inters too and the likes of Stephen “Clive” Darcy and Declan Potter will fall into the category of Dark horses on Saturday. Loughlinstown’s Albert Mitten could well be one to watch Albert was third way back In 2002 and lost the Dublin matchplay final in 2012.
Former Winners: 2013: David Donnelly(Erins Isle), 2012 Sean Gallagher(Lucan), 2011 Gary Ryan(Lucan), 2010: Adam McGreal(Old County), 2009: Julian Kelly(Glenville), 2008: David Hayden II (Lucan), 2007: Aaron Cuddihy(CPM), 2006: Gary O’Hanlon(RGSC), 2005: Daniel Keane(Guinness), 2004: Justin Gill (Loughlinstown)
The Senior event should be explosive and it could well come down to two men. Cast your mind back to May 11th 2003 and the final stages of the Dublin senior Strokeplay in CPM. It looked set fair for a victory for Dennis Monaghan, Dennis just needed to avoid trouble on the last but alas he pitched big and his mistake was to cost him the title, on the other side of the river was a jubilant Junior Smith who had realised he had won the title. Amidst all the excitement in the senior championship a young unassuming player from Loughlinstown was romping away with the Inter championship. Any of the inters playing with him that day knew this guy was a special talent and was destined for the top, the player was John Ross Crangle and six years later he fulfilled that promise when he won the Dublin senior title in Erin’s Isle in some style. The field on Sunday is an expansive one packed full of Dublin champions, experience in abundance and a host of players waiting for their opportunity to come. With twenty four to make the play-off it could see a big gap between 1st and 24th, but we could equally see a field packed closely together and with potentially squally conditions forecast, conditions could be far from straight forward. The holder is Tom O’Reilly, the Old County player caused more than a ripple when he outscored Mark Millar to land his maiden title in Glenville. It would be a surprise if Tom was to retain it, but if Tom is looking for history, he need only look back to 2008 when Derek Courtney completed back to back championships in Lucan.
The Likely Lads: The aforementioned JR Crangle is definitely one to watch and JR enjoys the North side venue. JR’s nearest challenge could come from one of EI’s newest members Mark Millar. Mark loves the course and anyone who witnessed Mark’s 44 in last years scratch cup in the most telling of conditions will know what he can do on this course. Paul Nolan would dearly love to win it in the cub’s 50th year and Paul has the game to do it, he just needs the belief and a little luck to get him over the line. Lucan’s Chris Gallagher is another who should be within striking range with 18 to play. It is now almost ten years since Chris solitary Dublin title and high time he put another one on the mantelpiece. Chris form has been good and will be relishing the opportunity on Sunday. Another former winner who enjoys the EI venue will be David Hayden. David is once again showing the type of form that landed him back to back national titles in the 80’s and his laid back demeanour will be perfect for the pressure cooker atmosphere on Sunday.
The Contenders: Jim McLaughlin might be upset not to be considered one of the likely lads for success, but Jim most certainly has all the skills necessary to win on Sunday, like Paul he too would love to do it for the year that is in it and it could be the inspiration to drive him on or the anxiety to hold him back. As mentioned the holder Tom O’Reilly is in good form and with no pressure on him, he can really cut loose and see where that leaves him. Tom is a pin point pitcher and can really shoot low if required. It is hard to believe the progress that Lucan’s Keith Redmond has made. When the championships were last held in Dublin 11, Keith was contesting the Inter play-offs and now on its return he is the reigning Dublin Matchplay champion. Keith knows his way around Erins Isle and having got into a winning position in Shandon in 2011, he will make  sure to take full advantage on Sunday if the situation arises again. CPM’s Darren O’Reilly is having a mixed year by his high standards but the 2011 champion has all the credentials to win and won’t be fazed if the opportunity arises. The 2003 champ Junior Smith is always in the shake up for Dublin titles and he too will be disappointed if he is not within shooting distance of the leading players over the closing holes.
The Dark Horses: Loughlinstown have some brilliant seniors who have just had the chance to play the course on league duty on Tuesday night, one such player is Hubert Kelly, who can really shoot the lights out when he hits form, last Sunday in Shandon was a prime example. Gary Healy is another player who thrives on this kind of days and if he gets a run going could be dangerous. Ierne’s John Dennis could be another worth watching who has buckets of talent that should have seen him more regularly contesting championships. Old County have had some excellent seniors too the likes of Stephen Murray and George McGreal, An outside tip from there could be Karl Murphy. Another streak player who could excel if the putts are dropping. One final dark horse if he is not too busy officiating could be the county board chairman, Anthony Malone. He would love nothing more than being in that final pairing on Sunday evening.
Former Winners: 2013: Tom O’Reilly(Old County), 2012: David Hayden(Lucan), 2011: Darren O’Reilly(CPM), 2010: Gary Byrne(Ierne), 2009: JR Crangle(Loughlinstown), 2008: Derek Courtney(Glenville), 2007: Derek Courtney(Glenville), 2006: Terry O’Donnell(Loughlinstown), 2005: Chris Gallagher (Lucan), 2004: Paddy O’Connor (Glenville)
So there you have it. All we need now is three winners to emerge from players we have not picked. Best of luck to all taking part, to Erins Isle with hosting and give a thought for poor Dave Donnelly who sadly won’t be with us on Saturday – rest in peace.