at Carton House Deliverance comes to those who wait, even if Muskerry Golf Club must have wondered if their virtue of patience would ever be rewarded.
Yesterday, finally, it was. After a gap of 61 years since they last held the Barton Shield in a cabinet of their own, the Co Cork establishment can now push aside some silverware to make room for the historic trophy after an impressive three holes win in the final over Warrenpoint.
This Barton Shield win in the AIG Cups and Shields finals over the immaculate O'Meara Course here at Carton House was as fine as any others in those years of the long drought, as Niall Gorey and David O'Donovan put on a performance of real quality.The pair were winners by five holes over Stephen Coulter and William Hanna, which comfortably outweighed the two-hole loss suffered by Daniel Hallissey and John Waldron to Colm Campbell jnr and Ryan Gribben. It gave Muskerry a first win since 1953.
In yesterday's other national final, Castletroy – inspired by the heroics of UCD student Jonathan McDonnell who came from three down with four holes to play to win by one hole – captured the Irish Junior Cup with a 3 ½ to 1 ½ win over Castle.
In the Barton Shield, a unique foursomes format played off scratch , Gorey and O’Donovan put on a tour de force and were four under par (and four up) at the turn after the sort of hot start that is usually the stuff of dreams. This time, it was only too real. And, if O’Donovan suffered a blip on the ninth where he duffed his lob wedge approach from 80 yards – “my legs were beginning to seize, I was getting a bit airy”, he later remarked – there was quick redemption in the form of a wonderful pitch from Gorey and putt from O’Donovan to save a half. A few bars of chocolate also helped alleviate the light headedness and from then on there was no stopping them.
– who rode their luck at times in progressing through the Munster campaign to make it here – were providers of their own fortune on this occasion, as Gorey and O’Donovan kept a firm grip on the top match and had information coming of what was unfolding behind so that the bigger picture was always kept in their vision. As O’Donovan put it: “We had a runner with each match so we knew exactly on every hole what the score was overall. So it was Muskerry three up or Muskerry one up . . . it just worked for us.”
A few weeks ago Gorey actually had the gold medal awarded to the Barton Shield winners in his hands. Another hint towards fate came when they discovered their winning predecessors of 1953 had also beaten Warrenpoint in the final
“Maybe there was destiny involved,” said O’Donovan, who has played club golf for Muskerry for 22 years. “I played senior interpros and I’ve won scratch cups and the like, but this was always the dream. An All-Ireland for the club!
Perhaps there was a touch of fate in Castletroy's Junior Cup win, with GUI president Liam Martin making the presentation to his own club in his year of office. It was Castletroy's first win in the competition since 1972, with McDonnell – and his father Johnny McDonnell serving as team captain – providing the match-winning point following wins behind him by Brendan Reidy and Michael Murphy.
“I am so happy, over the moon,” said McDonnell, in his final year of studying economics and finance in Belfield. “A lot of us decided not to go away for the summer [on J1] because we knew there was something special about this team.” He was proven right.