Super troopers Galway set for final showdown with Royal Dublin

Joe Lyons’s players will need all their resolve to defeat ‘The Dream Team’

"You're troopers," remarked one supporter, hugging Joe Lyons after Galway overcame North West in the first semi-final of the Barton Shield on the opening day of the AIG Cups and Shields Finals over the O'Meara Course at Carton House. and it would seem that such character and resolve will again be required if the westerners are to take the next step to glory.

Because standing in their way for the final showdown is what has become known as “The Dream Team”, aka Royal Dublin.

In that other semi-final final, Royal Dublin recorded a seven holes winning margin over holders Muskery, a margin of victory that provided further indication of the firepower in the north Dublin team. Jeff Hopkins and Shaun Carter were four holes winner over former international Niall Gorey and Dave O'Donovan, whilst Ian O'Rourke and Barry Anderson continued their impressive form with a three holes success over Daniel Hallissey and Shane Whooley.

“Ah, sure they did to me and Dave what we did to other guys last year,” remarked a philosophical Gorey of what had unfolded on the pristine parkland course. In truth, there could be little argument about the outcome, for Royal Dublin’s partnership of Carter, who learnt his golf at Stackstown and studied at Maynooth where he became intimately acquainted with the O’Meara course, and Hopkins, a product of Skerries, were three-under on the 16 holes required before the mathematical point of victory was reached.

Turned the screw

The Royal Dublin pair of Hopkins and Carter turned the screw around the turn, making a superb up and down from a bunker on the eighth for par and backing it up with a winning birdie on the 391 yards Par 4 ninth, where Hopkins hit a great approach shot in close and Gorey missed a five-footer to halve the hole. “We kept the foot on the gas and just kept the pressure on them. We were always ahead, always in on the greens closest,” said Hopkins of their strong performance.

From a long way out, Royal Dublin’s advancement into the final looked like a sure thing, and they face Galway in the decider seeking to end a 47-year drought since their last success. For Galway, the semi-final was a tougher battle and the westerners only overcame a dogged North West by two holes.

In the top match, Lyons teamed up with Stephen Brady for a three holes win over Kealan Quigg and Ryan Gribben, whilst Ronan Mullarney and Colm Hughes lost by one hole to Garrett Mallon and Kyle McCarron. However, the Mullarney-Hughes partnership won the 16th and 17th with birdies to go from three down and effectively bring matters to an end with Galway in an unassailable position.

Lyons, an old hand in these finals, had taken a decision not to inquire into what was going on in the match behind. But that policy was taken out of his head when someone informed him walking down the 13th that his teammates behind were four down. Lyons and Brady had just won the 12th to go two up and would go three up with a winning par on the 15th. There was no opening the door for their rivals after that, with solid golf getting the job done.

Of taking on Royal Dublin in the final, Lyons observed: “They would be favourites, they look very strong on paper. We’ll have to play above ourselves to beat them, we’re definitely big underdogs, but lookit, sometimes that’s a good way to be going in.”

Fortitude

In the Irish Junior Cup semi-finals, Greenisland demonstrated tremendous fortitude to defeat Douglas 3-2, with Andrew Ervine winning at the 19th hole over Darren Hourihan and, after Jamie Campbell won his match on the 15th, Michael Hayes claimed the decisive point with an 18th hole win over Barry O'Sullivan-Geaney. Westport beat a fancied Dundalk 3-2 in the other semi-final, with Fergus Rothwell claiming the all-important point with a one hole win over Aaron King.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times

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