Concra Wood conquer all to claim their third Musgrave All-Ireland Club Challenge pennant
Monaghan club overcome Loughrea in exciting duel at the Oceanico resort in the Algarve
Irish Ladies Golf Union president Mary McKenna presents Andy Whelan (president, Concra Wood Golf Club, Castleblaney) with the victory pennant following their win in the 2013 Musgrave Crumlin Hospital All-Ireland Club Challenge at the Oceanico Golf Resort, Algarve, Portugal. Also in the picture (from left) are Declan Smyth, Pat McNeill, Seamus Scally (Chairman, Musgrave Group), Joe Quinsey (Chief Executive, The Children’s Medical & Research Foundation) and Joe McGrath.
While the eyes of the golfing world may have been focused on the Victoria course for the Portugal Masters last week, there was an equally intense competition taking place along the Algarve coast in the final of Musgrave All-Ireland Club Challenge.
And there have been few more deserving winners of the title than Concra Wood, who added to their triumphs in both 2008 and 2009 to secure an unprecedented third title for the Castleblaney club. The three-man team of Joseph McGrath, Patrick McNeill and Declan Smyth were pushed hard by Loughrea over the 36-hole competition but displayed their pedigree to card the top scores in both rounds and take the pennant back to a now familiar home on the banks of Lough Muckno.
An event that began last April, with over 7,000 golfers hoping to book their place in Portugal for the decider, boiled down to a shoot-out between the four provincial winners – Concra Wood, Loughrea, Rathbane and Millicent.
The format of the competition, editorially supported by The Irish Times, would see the three-man teams play a first round at the O’Connor Course at Oceanico (with two out of three cards counting), before switching to the Faldo Course in the same resort for a rumble.
With one score on the first six holes, two scores to count on the next six holes and all three to count on the final six holes it would ensure there would be drama right until the death.
Despite some sharp-shooting in practice on the eve of competition, Millicent flattered to deceive and their opening morning tally of 51 points left them with too much to do over the final 18 holes. Rathbane (59 points) were also out of sorts on the O’Connor course, and while both clubs improved in the rumble, in truth their race was already run.
At the business end of proceedings, Concra Wood finished the day just ahead of Loughrea, an impressive total of 74 giving them a slender two-point lead over the Connacht champions.
McGrath, Smyth and McNeill looked right at home on the testing design. McGrath and Smyth provided the scoring cards, with McGrath’s total of 40 points by some distance the performance of the day. But Loughrea were not to be cast adrift, with Patsy Lynch and John Greally setting up a duel in the sun with 36 points apiece.
And with Finbar Drayne also playing his part, Loughrea kept up the pressure the following morning on the Faldo Course, to level the scores after the opening six holes. But after seeing their lead evaporate, Concra Wood began to set a relentless pace with all three team-mates holing crucial putts when it mattered.
Concra Wood amassed 79 points with one to play and even though they added a meagre three points on the last, it more than sufficed as they finished the day with 82 for a total of 156 – eight better that Loughrea.
With all the proceeds from this competition, generously supported by Musgrave and now in its 15th year, going directly to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, over €1.5 million has been raised for the St Anne’s Ward since its inception. Clubs interested in organising getting involved in next year’s event can contact tournament director Pat Cashman at 087 2424451 or by e-mail at email@example.com.