Geoff Lenehan leads Portmarnock to 20th Senior Cup
Dublin club beat Royal Portrush while in the Junior Cup Portumna saw off Fortwilliam
Portmarnock team (from left) Darragh Coghlan, Stephen Walsh, James Fox, Geoff Lenehan and Conor Purcell. Photo: Pat Cashman
As Geoff Lenehan stood amidst the pine needles down by the left of the 17th fairway, his ball rested against a tree, it wasn’t apparent just then that he would be the one to emerge from the shadows as Portmarnock’s hero in the clash of golfing royalty with old foes Royal Portrush in the AIG Irish Senior Cup final at Thurles Golf Club.
This was pure golf, even raw; and those of us standing on the fairway could only imagine what was going through his head as he appraised the situation.
All square with former Walker Cup star Paul Cutler – who returned to the amateur ranks after an unsuccessful venture into the professional ranks – at that time, Lenehan’s dilemma was further compounded when he suffered a fresh air with his initial rescue attempt and then only moved his next shot little more than five yards, still shy of finding the fairway. With his fourth shot, a four-iron in hand, the ball raced through the green and finished on the 18th tee box.
Cutler’s approach finished just left of the green, and the advantage was clearly his. The bookmakers would have closed the book and refused to accept any bets. But, then, in a flash, it all changed: Lenehan audaciously chipped in for a bogey five. Cutler’s poor chip then failed to find the putting surface, his next raced 12 feet by and it was to his credit that he holed the return putt to salvage a half.
As the two, one shell-shocked, the other buoyed, walked to the 18th tee, word filtered through that Conor Purcell and Stephen Walsh had won their matches over Richard McCrudden (by 5 and 4) and Andrew Morris (by 4 and 2) respectively. It meant Portmarnock required one point from the remaining tight exchanges to get over the line. Who would be the provider?
Lenehan proved to be the one to do it, eventually overcoming Cutler at the 19th where his hybrid approach from 240 yards to the Par 5 found the green and he two-putted from 25 feet for the winning birdie, punching the air in delight as the putt fell to give Portmarnock a 4-1 win with the remaining two matches deemed halved. It gave Portmarnock a 20th success in the Senior Cup, and first since 2011 at Castlerock, when Lenehan was also the man to clinch the winning point.
“We wanted to win again. We haven’t quite performed as well as we’d like to (in recent years), so a bit more went into it this year to get it done. We’ve put a lot of pressure on ourselves over the years, maybe that was detrimental to us,” said Lenehan.
Of that miracle half on the 17th, Lenehan – who performed strongly in Munster’s winning of the Interprovincials – explained his thought process: “You are just trying to keep applying the pressure. We had John McHenry with us with Munster this year, and he kept saying, ‘just keep moving forward, apply pressure, apply pressure, you never know’. You get lucky sometimes.”
Skill more than luck, in the finish. And Purcell – who has his eye on making the Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team next year – was hugely impressive in his win, establishing an early lead, heads down to Australia for a period which will involved warm weather practice as well as taking in tournaments either side of Christmas. “The Walker Cup is a long way away from now, build this winter and see where we can get,” said Purcell.
Portumna – led by hugely impressive teenager Sam Murphy – were 4-1 winners over Fortwilliam in the Junior Cup final.
The 16-year-old – who is edging towards scratch, having started the year with a 3.5 handicap – was one under par for the holes played in a 6 and 4 win over Gary Brown, with Gerard Lynch and Damien Browne following up with wins to give Portumna victory. “I always like to get out first, to have a free course and you get to run around,” said Murphy of his front-running role.
Junior Cup Final
Portumna 4 Fortwilliam 1
Sam Murphy bt Gary Brown 6 and4; Gerard Lynch bt Conor Bradley 4 and 2; Damien Burke bt Declan Hughes 4 and 2; Michael Flanagan halved with Gary Currie; Eamonn Dervan halved with Eamonn O’Kane.
Senior Cup Final
Portmarnock 4 Royal Portrush 1
Geoff Lenehan bt Paul Cutler at 19th; Stephen Walsh bt Andrew Morris 4 and 2; James Fox halved with Matthew McAlpin; Conor Purcell bt Richard McCrudden 5 and 4; Darragh Coghlan halved with Mark McMurray.