Dublin Match Play Finals

The Dublin Matchplay championships took place over the weekend on three sun drenched courses as players had the perfect conditions to show off their games. The Gents Inters & Juniors were in CYMC on Saturday and the Fairview venue offered conditions to test the competitors with firm greens and tight fairways. In the Inter championship the holder Dave Donnelly was a hot favourite, the Erins Isle man looking for his third Dublin title in thirteen months. The 1st round draw though saw Dave paired with club mate and one of the few tipped to test Dave over the weekend Charlie Egan. The duo had a great game with Dave prevailing on the 18th. Dave then came through his remaining rounds on Saturday with relative ease to book a place in Sunday’s semi-finals. Joining Dave in the final four was first time participant Declan Potter from Glenville who knocked out the experienced Dave Roy from Erins Isle on route. John Kenny from Lucan and Philip Keating from Shandon also came through the field in CY to advance to Sunday morning.

The Junior championship was expected to be dominated by Lucan and their impressive players did not disappoint as the likes of Chris Byrne defeated Glenville’s Des Caffrey. Jay Condron, former runner up Mick Donnelly all advanced, the big surprise was the 1st round exit of the holder Kevin Redmond, the host club CY have a great pedigree in the junior ranks as well and Dennis Dowling ensured their interest in the title would go onto the Sunday as well after impressive wins on the Saturday as well
The ladies were in action in Erins Isle, Ger Ward was unable to take part and the door was open for someone else to land that championship. The 1st round draw pitted together two Dublin Legends in Maree O’Toole and Sheelagh Elmes, both have had great duals through the years and Maree came out on top on Saturday. Old County’s young starlet Claire Keatinge would have been expected to do well but Brenda Purcell made sure experience triumphed over youth as she came through to the final 4. Linda Thompson was a winner of these championships in 2011 and she continues to show her prowess as one of the top Dublin seniors as she too advanced to the last 4. The final player to come through was Old County’s Pauline Balfe, Pauline a former All Ireland Inter Champion showed a return to that form and came through qualifying on Saturday.
The Inter event is always hard to call, There was several last hole deciders in Erins Isle on Saturday and  CYMc Eileen Nolan is a former champ and she made the last 4, Eileen was joined by Shandon’s Frances McMullen and Ring Common’s Mary Shiels, former Dublin County Board officer Mary Lynch from Portmarnock also showed good form to make the last four.
In the Junior event, RGSC had good representation on Saturday and made it count with the evergreen Peg Smith and Glenda Hoey coming through they were joined by Lucan’s Dora Keane and Irene Finnegan.
The senior event is always hotly contested and has thrown up some surprise winners in recent years. One of the former champs Darren O’Reilly had an early exit beaten by Old County’s George McGreal on tie holes. The meeting of Darren Thornberry and Ger Fitzpatrick was a rematch of the 2008 final, Darren emerged victorious back in Erins Isle back then, but Ger exacted revenge winning on Saturday. Another home favourite Mark Millar also bite the dust in round 2 and in round 3, Chris Gallagher and Terry McMorrow faced off in a repeat of the 2010 final, Chris like Ger earlier in the day gained a measure of revenge for his final defeat to make the last 8. John Crangle has a great reputation in matchplay but he has yet to get his name on this trophy, he will have to wait another year longer, despite beating home favourite Dennis Monaghan in Round 3 he lost out to Old County’s Stephen Murray in the last 8. Anthony Malone has not tasted success in this event since his memorable win over Paddy O’Connor in 2004, he was making good progress through the draw but Shandon’s Keith Redmond halted his progress. Keith was unlucky to lose out to Ray Murphy in Lucan last weekend, but he maintained that excellent form to make the last 4. Paul Nolan is another player in good form showing great consistency so far in 2013 and he beat Ierne’s Brendan Crean to make the last four on Saturday.
In the Under 16, Old County’s Jamie Power and Portmarnock’s Ciaran Lynch came though some tough battles to make it through to Sunday’s final.
In Sunday’s semi-finals. The seniors got things underway and Stephen Murray continued his excellent form as he saw off Paul Nolan 3 &2 to make the final. The 2nd semi was a tighter affair and it looked like Chris Gallagher might edge through, but Keith Redmond is such an improved player and difficult to beat and he forced the match to tie holes and found the winning putt to reach his 1st major final. In the ladies semi-final, Pauline Balfe made it through ending the hopes of Brenda Purcell, whilst Maree O’Toole made home advantage count seeing off Linda Thompson.
There was more joy in the Ladies Inters as Francis Mullen made the final defeating Eileen Nolan. Mary Shiels and Mary Lynch were once club mates in Campions, but now in different clubs, it was the Ring Common Lady who emerged victorious to reach her 1st major final. In the Ladies Juniors, it was to be an all RGSC Final and the crowd were delighted to see Peg Smith make it through, she would play Glenda Hoey for the title.
In the Gents Inters. Dave Donnelly would have been wary of the challenge poised by home favourite Philip Keating, but Philip never found top form and Dave eased into the final for the third year running. Declan Potter appearing in his 1st semi-final showed great composure and putted superbly to end the challenge of Lucan’s John Kenny and reach the final.
In the Juniors, it was all Lucan final, Mick Donnelly proved too strong for CY’s Derek Dowling and in the all Lucan semi, Jay Condron (son of the former winner Philo) just got the better of clubmate Chris Byrne.
The final teed off in bright sunshine and an ever increasing crowd. The gent’s seniors got the action underway. Stephen Murray was looking for his 1st Dublin title a runner up in this event back in 2006. Keith was appearing in his 1st major final hoping to bring the cup back to Shandon for the 1st time since 2005. Stephen made the stronger start pitching superbly and birdie on eight of the first twelve holes, he lead by 5. Keith though found his range and gradually chipped away at Stephen’s lead. He trailed by just 3 after18. By the time Stephen missed a putt on the 6h, they were level. A Birdie two by Stephen on the 9th restored his lead, but Keith responded superbly with a hole in one on the 10th. Stephen salvaged pars on 11 and 12 to stay level, but when he found the sand on 13, Keith had the lead for the 1st time in the match. Both had brilliant long birdies on 14 and when Keith found another birdie on 15, he was 2 up with three to play. He almost won the match with a chip in on 16, but he didn’t have long to wait, when Stephen’s chip on 17 slide by the hole. He offered his hand to Keith and the local player had pulled off a stunning victory. The former Dublin Board Secretary and PRO has worked so hard on his game since his return to the sport six years ago and his rapid improvement since going senior three years ago shows the potential he has. For Stephen Murray it was a tough pill to swallow, but he will know there will be other days and today belonged to Keith.
There was more Shandon success when Maree O’Toole delivered the senior crown. She proved far too strong for a gallant Pauline Balfe as two of the most popular players on the tour battled it out. Maree cut a forelorn figure when losing to Ger Ward in Lucan last Sunday, but it was a very different story this week as she captured her 2nd matchplay crown.  The Gents Inters final was a tight affair, Declan Potter putted brilliantly to stay in it for long periods, but Dave Donnelly has been a level above most inters this year and he gradually built up the lead winning 4 &3 to capture his second matchplay title in twelve months. He too has the potential to make serious in roads into the Senior ranks.
Frances McMullen completed a memorable hat-trick for the host club with a sizeable win over Mary Shiels. Frances was always in control and showed great coolness under pressure to bag the biggest title of her carear.
There was no fairytale ending in the ladies junior, it was great to see Peg Smith in the limelight, for so long the one lining the fairways watching and supporting the players throughout the countryside. She had her day in the limelight; sadly her compatriot Glenda Hoey was far too consistent. For Glenda it was superb victory and wonderful to see an RGSC Junior Lady back in the winners circle.
Lucan were guaranteed a winner in the Gents Junior and both players experienced nerves as they failed to find their best form, however Mick Donnelly having lost out to compatriot Mick Kirwin two years ago, had learned from that day and he was to prove too strong  for Jay and won 5 &4.
There was some top quality pitch & putt in the Under 16 final with Jamie Power and Ciaran Lynch thrilling the crowd with some wonderful pitches. It was the older people who just had the edge with Old County’s Jamie Power landing the top prize and ensuring the Kimmage club didn’t leave without a title.
It was a great end to a wonderful weekend of pitch n’ putt. It surely belonged to the host club with Keith, Maree and Frances the toasts of their success, but Lucan, Erins Isle, RGSC and Old County had all good reasons to be delighted after more silverware for their clubs. Please see photo of all seven winners below. More photos to follow in the next day or so.