GALWAY hurling fans hoping to see the Tribesmen claim their first All-Ireland hurling title for 24 years might look on the result of the western region qualifier for the Allianz-Irish Independent Executive Trophy as a good omen.
Whatever happens against champions Kilkenny at Croke Park next month, three Galway clubs will be in the Executive Trophy grand final at The K Club on September 6 following the fifth and final qualifying event of the season at a pristine Galway Bay Golf Resort last Thursday.
The Executive Trophy, which brings captains, lady captains and honorary officers together in a spirit of camaraderie and competition, produced four worthy finalists, headed by Portumna, Bearna and Galway Bay with Waterford's Faithlegg clinching the last berth at the spectacular Christy O'Connor Jnr creation.
"It was a great day for Galway teams," said Allianz director, Sean McGrath. "Who knows, perhaps that will be a good omen for Galway when it comes to matters at Croke Park. Whatever happens, it was a wonderful day to be in Galway Bay and a pleasure to play on such a well-manicured course.
"When I saw a greenkeeper trimming the edges of the bunkers with a scissors on my arrival, I knew we were in for a treat."
First opened in 1993 and lavishly redesigned and enhanced by Ryder Cup hero O'Connor Jnr in 2006, Galway Bay has managed to attracted 70 new members this year, a real feat at a time when clubs around the country are losing members.
The course certainly impressed the winning Portumna team, with club captain Frank Ryan, president Michael Carty and lady captain Ena Moran amassing 79 stableford points to top the qualifiers by three.
Unusually, all four qualifying clubs started on the 10th but it was Portumna who took full advantage and, inspired by the spectacular views, they racked up 43 points on the back nine with a crucial six-pointer at the index-one 12th.
"Myself and Michael had pars there," said the winning captain. "We made sure we weren't going in the water. But it was Ena who got two important putts for us, one on our first hole and another on the last."
Despite retiring as a garda sergeant last year, Ryan still laid down the law about how to play Galway Bay!
"Just make sure you are straight because there is plenty of water around waiting to catch you out," he said. "It was fantastic to win on such a great course and we are all really looking forward to playing at The K Club in September."
Bearna captain Brendan McLaughlin was ably assisted by club president Pat McNamara and lady captain Mary Farrell as they took second place with 76 points.
"We were delighted with our performance," McLaughlin said. "All three of us played very well and were are so pleased to be going to The K Club in September. Our president Pat McNamara was undoubtedly the star for us.
"He played off 27 but he easily shot his handicap on the day. He was great for the first four or five holes and that really set us up well for the day. Mary played very well as well."
Hosts Galway Bay -- represented by captain Mark Kelly, lady captain Bridgie Hanley and president Tom Moran -- withstood the pressure of playing at home to finish third with 75 points.
They were delighted with their performance, but even more pleased by the praise lavished on their course by their distinguished visitors.
"I'm very biased, but I have to say that Galway Bay is in the top 10 courses in the country for its condition considering the weather we have had," Kelly said with a smile.
"All the visiting clubs have been very complimentary. We want everyone to know that Galway Bay is open for business because we believe it's one of the finest championship courses in the country."
Waterford club Faithlegg clinched fourth place on 74 points thanks to captain David Keating, lady captain Mary Lewis and lady president Gillian Hogan.
Nine handicapper Keating -- who was a member of the Faithlegg side that won the Munster section of the Jimmy Bruen Shield last year -- was also impressed by Galway Bay.
"It was a real credit to the greens staff there," he said. "Clubs in the south east have struggled with the weather this year but it was spectacular."
Keating certainly did his bit for the club, carding three pars and two birdies in his first seven holes before the ladies came into their own.
"I've hit a rich vein of form over the last 10 days or so and the ball seems to be going where it is meant to go," he said.
Like all the qualifiers -- and those Galway hurlers -- he'll be hoping for similar marksmanship in the final.