Deegan has shot at further glory
WHEN THEIR paths first crossed back in teenage years, Conor Deegan – who went on to win two All-Ireland football medals with Down – and Paddy Gribben, who followed a Walker Cup appearance with a stint in the professional ranks, could hardly have envisaged that their sporting fates would have them meet again decades later in the final of the Irish Senior Cup. It has!
Now, Deegan, at 43, is the rather imposing father-figure of a youthful Castle team that will seek to win a first green pennant in these Chartis-sponsored Irish Cups and Shields at Kinsale Golf Club, whilst Gribben, at 44, is the experienced hand on a Warrenpoint team attempting to find redemption for last year’s agonising defeat (to Portmarnock) at the final hurdle.
Castle were 3½-1½ winners over Co Sligo in yesterday’s semi-final, with 16-year-old scratch player Jack Walsh’s one-hole win over Seán Flanagan taking the south Dublin club over the line. Warrenpoint had to work harder to secure a similar outcome over Tramore, with two sudden-death wins with birdies at the 19th – from Gribben and Stephen Coulter – enabling them to get home.
Deegan’s sporting CV is dominated by the two All-Ireland medals he won with Down in 1991 and 1994, but the plus-five handicapper has rekindled old sporting ambitions with this march on a golfing front. “Really, up to about 16, it was a toss up between the two sports. Then, I made a minor team and that made the decision for me. Who knows where paths might have gone a wee bit differently?” he said, adding: “I was very lucky in sport in some ways, but this is different . . . we have a great team ethos going, a great atmosphere.”
Deegan was a 2 and 1 winner over Gerard Finnegan to lead the way for Castle in the win over the Rosses Point side, with teenager Alex Gleeson – who had been unwell overnight – also securing a 2 and 1 win over Gary McDermott. Walsh then closed out the match with a one-hole win over Flanagan, his par save on the 17th, where he skied his tee-shot and had to lay-up with a four-iron before getting up and down, proving crucial.
Warrenpoint’s win over Tramore was hard-fought. Although Colm Campbell Jnr led from the front with a 5 and 4 win over Peter Power, it was left to Gribben and Coulter to show fortitude to get the job done. Gribben held a one-hole lead playing the 18th in his match with Alan Thomas but cut his three-wood approach on the par five into pond and lost the hole and was forced into sudden death. Gribben showed his class at the first tie hole, hitting what he termed a “quiet eight iron” to six feet and sank the birdie putt.
The drama wasn’t over. Coulter – who had won the 17th in bizarre circumstances after his ball stuck in a tree and he took a penalty drop and then put his next into the hazard in running up a double-bogey six which still won him the hole – and Robin Dawson were also forced to negotiate the 372 yards par-four first hole in sudden-death.