Ballybunion's young guns book place in decider
BALLYBUNION sent out a bunch of kids to do a man's job at Royal Tara golf club and got the result they wanted – a place in today's Junior Cup final.
The Kerry club, bidding to win the competition for the first time, were rewarded for fielding five teenagers as they defeated a gallant Laytown & Bettystown team by 3.5 to 1.5 on the opening day of the AIG Cups and Shields finals.
Star of the show was the youngest of the Ballybunion players, John Molyneaux Jnr, who belied his 16 years to clinch the key match against the Laytown & Bettystown club.
Molyneaux, a grandson of legendary GUI official John Molyneaux, and also a member of Stackstown in Dublin, had to go to the 20th before he defeated Rory O'Gorman. That result put Ballybunion in today's final against a strong Westport side who ousted Slieve Russell – also by 3.5 to 1.5.
The Kerry team's captain John Maher was proud of his Munster champions. Four of the players – Molyneaux, Senan Carroll, Richard Hanley and Jason Lynch – are Leaving Cert students, and one – Frank Geary Jnr – is in his first year of college.
"It's amazing. It's the youngest team we've ever put out," said Maher. "We're in uncharted territory now, but the lads are confident without being cocky."
Westport stalwart Tony Bree led by example with a 4&3 win for a vital point against Slieve Russell's Barry Cunningham. Jack Healy, a 17-year-old who was on the Rice College team who recently won the All-Ireland schools title, and Ronan Hehir were the other Westport winners.
At the elite handicap level, County Sligo's double dream remains alive after they qualified to play a formidable Clandeboye side in today's Barton Shield final. The Rosses Point side came through their semi-final against Rosslare by three holes aggregate, while Clandeboye nailed Cork with a seven-hole aggregate victory.
Whatever the result of the Barton Shield decider today, County Sligo face a Senior Cup semi-final tomorrow.
Shandon Park in 2000 were the last club to do the Senior Cup-Barton Shield double, but County Sligo also achieved it in 1996 and '97.
Garth McManus, captain of the Barton Shield squad, said: "The turning point of the game was in the last four holes in the top match.
"Sean Flanagan and Declan Reidy dug deep and finished birdie, birdie for the last two holes to go from one up to two up. The second match had gone back to level so it was really crucial to get that," he said.
Reidy (18) is the newcomer on the team, which also features senior international Gary McDermott, Boys international Sean Flanagan and Connacht inter-pro Steffan O'Hara.
In the other semi-final, Clandeboye's blend of experience and youth – Colm Murphy and Boys international William Russell – pulled out all the stops late in the match for a seven-hole aggregate verdict over Gary O'Flaherty and John Hickey of Cork.
Graeme Laird and Lee Crawford were called in with their match all square after 17 holes, and Clandeboye captain John Walker was relieved with the outcome, because it wasn't as easy as it looked.
"I wouldn't have bet on us winning with your money after nine holes," he said. "We were four up early on but the match was square at the turn – (Cork two up in the first match and Clandeboye two up in the second game).
"The momentum was with Cork, but they just caved in. All our guys played very solidly and the second pairing were three-under for the last seven holes, which is very good in foursomes golf."