It was very nearly a Dublin Double in the All Ireland Inter County Finals in McDonagh, Co. Kildare as the gent’s team put in a Sunday masterclass to take victory while the ladies fell to a cruel defeat.
As the Saturday morning dew started to evaporate around the magnificently prepared course within the Currgh, the Dublin ladies team went about avenging a narrow defeat in the Leinster equivalent in Royal Meath against a top-class Kildare outfit.
They got off to a sluggish start with a few mistakes littered in among some really good play. Their playing partners from Cork got themselves off to a very good start and found themselves 10 shots ahead of our team with Tipperary & Kildare snapping at their heels. The ladies though dug in superbly spearheaded by the dynamic duo of Ger Ward & Sheelagh Elmes who produced the only sub 50 round in the doubles with a 49. Helen Greagsbey & Philo Condron added successive 57’s while Glenda Hoey & Pauline Balfe improved by 4 strokes with a super round of 50 in the afternoon clawing back the Cork lead to draw level with them. Both teams though sat 1 shot behind Tipperary and Kildare in what was turning out to be the tightest lady’s championship in memory with one stroke separating 4 sides.
The gents were in bullish mood as their challenge for the Anchor Cup began on Saturday morning. Lead off by the two Dublin Champions Chris Gallagher & George McGreal the side got off to a flying start with birdies flying in from all angles between the awesome duo. A 42 was considered a poor reflection by some viewers such was the class pitch & putt produced. The 2nd pairing were not to be as successful as both Jason Larkin & Paul Nolan got off to a slow start and never really recovered, both though stuck with it and a 50 was not to be the worst score by any means. The final pairing of Junior Smith & JR Crangle also had a steady start before a hole in one on the 12th hole propelled them to -9. The final 6 holes though were to prove tough and despite picking up one more birdie, they were disappointed with a 44! A team total of -26 was to leave them 5 shots behind the home county of Kildare and Limerick.
The singles started with the lead man Chris Gallagher once again excelling in his position with a fine 48. George followed up with a solid 50 as the team total started to add up nicely. Debutant Jason Larkin was to lead the scoring honours as his 47 was added to nicely by Paul Nolan’s 49. Junior Smith matched George’s 50 while JR Crangle brought the counting total to -54 with a 48 of his own. This was to leave the gents in behind by 9 strokes with both Wexford & Louth putting in blistering singles scores but the gents were in no way despondent going into the Sunday.
Over the past few years the Dublin team’s strength has come in the form of the difficult foursome’s game, something in which our county leagues are played and a system all of our teams are comfortable in. This was shown once again when Christopher Gallagher and George McGreal shot an absolutely stunning score of 43 which included a bogey on the notorious 14th green. They two lads were ably assisted by the other pairings as they both struck matching 48’s and looked like clawing their way back into contention.
Louth though to their credit finished superbly too only limit the damage to one stroke thanks in part to a great 44 from George Beardsley & Sean Goggin. Wexford and Limerick though were to level up with Dublin with all 3 teams 8 shots behind Louth and only 18 holes of singles left.
As the gent’s finished, it was now onto the lady’s final round, with 5 scores to count out of the 6 players, this championship looked like going all the way and it certainly did!
Cork were the first team of the leading teams out but they could not stick with the leading teams and fell backwards but could feel some consolation in taking the new Nett Prize. Kildare were in some minds, the heavy favourites going in, looking for a treble of title’s on home soil but their charge never materialised but they would take 3rd spot. It was down to the final two teams, Dublin and Tipperary.
Breda White for Tipperary lead her team from the front with a fantastic display that was epitomised by a stretch of 4 holes in which she didn’t even need her putter! 3 chip in’s and a hole in one in those 4 holes helped her to a fantastic day’s best of 49 and a huge start for her side. Helen Greagsbey was to find it much tougher though and things just didn’t go her way despite a battling performance. Philo Condron was as consistent as ever producing a level par 54 to keep Dublin within touching distance of the Tipp ladies. Pauline Balfe also displayed battling qualities as she finished her final 6 holes in -1 despite having a 5 on the dreaded 14th and signed off for a 56. At this stage, tensions were getting high and the scoring was very tight with shouts of Dublin leading by 1 or 2 and others saying Tipp were ahead by the same margins!
Glenda Hoey had a slow start but the most improved player in the county came through with flying colours and posted a 52 to push things towards a Dublin victory. Sheelagh Elmes was to finish with a 55 and it came down to the final grouping which consisted of Martha O’Brien for Tipp and Dublin legend Ger Ward. Martha had done an amazing job on the 14th to escape what looked a certain dropped shot, when she was big and left in the trees but somehow got up and down to salvage par. A birdie on 16 had brought the gap down to one shot. Both Ger & Martha went through the tricky 17th but while Martha got up & down, Ger could not and it was all square going up the final hole.
This though was not well known to the spectators or the players! Both players once again went through the back but both would have chances at birdies. Martha going first saw her chip check up and leave a nasty 4ft right to left breaker. Ger had the chance to take the title but her chip would just graze the left edge of the hole and she completed a 52 round and gave Dublin a final total of -4. Martha calmly struck her putt into the hole to sheer delight of the Tipperary crowd and it was unfortunately heartbreak for the Dublin team as it came down to the 6th scoring card.
Congratulations to the Tiperary team of Breda White, Mary Quinn, the family trio of Shula McCarthy, Gemma McCarthy, Michelle McCarthy and Martha O’Brien.
Commiserations to our Dublin ladies who put in a valiant effort in defeat. The county is proud of you Helen Greagsbey, Philo Condron, Sheelagh Elmes, Pauline Balfe, Glenda Hoey, Ger Ward and Louise Grace.
A great performance.
The gents were there to watch the end of the ladies and they were determined to try and avoid the same consequence as the final singles rounds came around. Mixed out with Limerick, Tipperary and Offaly the lads were once again spearheaded by the impressive Chris Gallagher who set the ball rolling nicely with birdies on his first two holes and added another to be -3 through 6, George McGreal was to follow his doubles partner with a couple of early birdies as the other members of the team watched on and the confidence started to rise. Jason Larkin was also to start well with blistering pace and the charge was on when he was -5 through his first 6. Paul Nolan was to make a slower start but was still adding to the score through 6 holes when he was -1. Junior Smith matched Chris’s good start with 3 more birdies to add to an ever growing total. JR Crangle was a little isolated from the pack but he was quietly putting together a nice round when he was -4 through his first 6 holes. -17 through their first 6 collectively, they were setting a championship winning pace but the question was could they maintain it?
The answer quite simply was, they could!
Chris added four more birdies to move to -7 through 12 holes, George was -5 also through 12, Jason Larkin was taking to the Inter County scene like a duck to water and was -8 through his first 12. Paul added another couple to his earlier total and was -3 with 6 holes to go. Junior Smith also started to find the back of the cup and was -7 through 12 in which JR Crangle would match with the help of a hole in one on the 11th. The roars were starting to echo around The Curragh venue as the final few holes brought out the best of the players with numerous crucial putts holed.
Chris Gallagher put a superb end to his round and championship with a total of -9 continuing his impressive recent form. George was captain fantastic once again with a final flourish of 3 birdies bringing his round to -8 and the best possible start for the gents. Jason was part of magic minute in which he holed a superb putt from the back of the 16th to enable him to shoot a stunning round of -10 and a debut of all debut’s!
Paul Nolan was class to the end and finished with 3 more birdies of his own and another great score of -6 of which was amazingly to be the dropped 6th score such was the standard they were setting. Junior Smith was negotiating a putt down the 14th green at the same time as Jason’s putt on 16. These moments were absolutely crucial as both could be considered potential bogeys but he rolled his putt majestically down the hill and dropped it in the front door on his way to add another round of -10. At this stage the total was looking imperious, with -120 the target for other counties to beat. JR Crangle though was to add to the total when he fired 4 more birdies on his final 6 holes and when he safely negotiated a tricky chip on 18 to help the team to a stunning -125 total, it was all but over as Dublin’s rivals found the phenomenal scoring too much to catch.
Louth to their credit, were superb in their final rounds and finished off their championship with -30 in the singles bringing them to a total of -115 and claim 2nd place by 9 strokes to Limerick back on -106. Kilkenny meanwhile took the Eamon Birchall Cup for the first time with a win over neighbours Wexford.
A simply fantastic success for the Dublin Gents team and George as captain raised Dublin’s 2nd Anchor Cup within the past 4yrs years and their first outside the county in 20yrs when they last won in Waterford Crystal.
George thanked both Pitch & Putt Ireland & hosts McDonagh for a great weekend, paid tribute to the Tipperary Ladies, Kilkenny Gents and the Dublin Ladies team along with the support of both the Dublin County Board and the countless number of spectators on the course cheering us on.
Congratulations to George McGreal, Chris Gallagher, Jason Larkin, Paul Nolan who were all winning their first All-Ireland title and Junior Smith, John-Ross Crangle and Anthony Malone.
Well done to both teams on a superb weekend of Pitch & Putt