Sport Golf

Sunday 25 September 2016

Sorrow follows joy as inspiration behind Sligo triumph passes away

Brian Keogh

Published 19/09/2016 | 02:30

Co Sligo’s Sean Flanagan with the late Mark Rooney. Flanagan (left) won the North of Ireland Amateur title in July and his first port of call before going to the golf club on his return was to see a ‘delighted’ Rooney and show him the trophy.
Co Sligo’s Sean Flanagan with the late Mark Rooney. Flanagan (left) won the North of Ireland Amateur title in July and his first port of call before going to the golf club on his return was to see a ‘delighted’ Rooney and show him the trophy.

Tears of joy were followed by tears of sadness for County Sligo Golf Club on Saturday night when the inspiration behind the club's fifth AIG Irish Senior Cup success passed away just hours after their thrilling 19th-hole win over Castle at Carton House.

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Mark Rooney, the much-loved team-mate and club stalwart to whom County Sligo dedicated their victory, died in Sligo later that evening after a long battle with cancer. He was 38.

During the trophy presentation on Saturday afternoon, team captain Shane Flanagan dedicated the club's 3-2 win to the popular family man who was their captain in 2012, whey they lost the decisive match to Tramore on the 19th.

"There is one person missing from the stand up here, our dear friend and panel member, Mark Rooney and if there were two words that summed up the inspiration behind this victory, they would be 'Mark Rooney'," Flanagan said.

"The first house we will call to when we get back to Sligo will be to see Mark."

Earlier, Flanagan said: "He was in the panel, and he would be mentioned in every team meeting. And a lot of the lads had his initials on their glove.

"They had the height of regard for him. We all know people like that - people who earn everyone's respect the right way. He is one of them. . . great lad. A super, super guy."

Yesterday, Flanagan described how the team was "devastated" to hear the bad news, saying: "We all went down to the Ewing Room and had a good half hour to ourselves with the door shut, remembering him. Then one of the guys said, 'Mark will be so upset if we don't go back up to that bar and raise a glass.'

"So we all went up and raised plenty of them, I can tell you!"

Castle were bidding to become just the third club after Royal Dublin in 1927 and Portmarnock in 1933 to win the Junior and Senior Cups in the same year.

But while they were 2-0 down after David Brady beat Peter McKeever 4&3 and TJ Ford defeated Jim Mulready 3&2, Castle were leading in the other three matches with holes running out.

With Irish Close champion Alex Gleeson winning the 18th to complete a hard-fought two-hole win over Declan Reidy and with Daniel Holland coming back from three down to secure a 2&1 win over Mark Morrissey, it appeared that Robert Moran would be the hero of the hour when he took a one up lead over Co Sligo's Ruairi O'Connor to the 18th tee.

However, the 23-year old Sligo man had other ideas, hitting a bullet-like 220-yard three iron to the heart of the 18th to set up a winning par four and force extra holes.

O'Connor then got up and down from sand for a winning birdie four, sinking a slick eight footer for the title and sweet redemption after the club lost in similar circumstances on the same green two years earlier with their late fried at the helm.

The AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield also went to the 19th, with nine-hole Cill Dara beating Athenry 3-2 with Derby-winning former jockey Christy Roche holing a two-footer for a winning par as he and Patrick Hopkins edged out Ciaran Coughlan and Seamus Burke in the decisive match.

"It's a super win for a small club like Cill Dara, a social club you could call it," Roche said. "A small nine-hole course with a limited amount of members, to take on the powers that be . . . fantastic."

Roche and Hopkins won friends in Athenry by conceding a two-and-a-half-footer for a half on the 18th green - all the more remarkable given Roche had missed a tiddler on the 17th.

"It was no more than they deserved," Roche said. "Everyone said the same from all the matches, they were so friendly and it was a really good spirit, you'd just hate to see a loser."

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