Cork and Sligo chasing elusive club double
THE annual festival of golf that is the AIG-sponsored GUI Cups and Shields tees off today at Royal Tara.
First into action are the provincial champions in the Barton Shield, who will be bidding for a place in Friday's final. They will be closely followed by the Junior Cup semi-finals.
Tradition favours a meeting of big guns Cork and County Sligo in the Barton Shield decider, but their respective opposition, Clandeboye and Rosslare, will hope to cause an upset.
Cork haven't won the title since 1990 and, as this is the club's 125th anniversary, a sixth Barton Shield pennant would be a significant coup.
The Little Island club have also qualified for the Senior Cup semi-finals on Friday, as have County Sligo, so those clubs have huge incentives for success this week.
First on the agenda is the Barton Shield. Cork are led by experienced inter-pro Gary O'Flaherty, who teams up with John Hickey against Colm Murphy and former Boys International William Russell.
In the second match, Mark Ford and Ian O'Flynn face Clandeboye's Graham Laird and Lee Crawford.
Clandeboye will present a stern challenge and showed their credentials by ousting highly-fancied Warrenpoint in the Ulster final.
Rosslare's blend of youth and experience is boosted by the presence of Leinster Youth champion Gary Collins.
Collins and Ian Lynch play County Sligo's Sean Flanagan and Declan Reid, followed by Mark Mullen and Tony O'Leary against a formidable pairing in Irish international Gary McDermott and Steffan O'Hara.
Kerry still have hope of an All-Ireland win in the Junior Cup, where they will be represented by Ballybunion, who won the Munster title with four teenagers – John Molyneaux, Frank Geary Jnr, Senan Carroll and Jason Lynch. They are joined by Richard Hanley in action against Laytown & Bettystown today.
Laytown & Bettystown have also sprinkled their team with youth as is evidenced by the inclusion of 16-year-old Eoghan Collins and Conor Taylor (18). Taylor's cousin Rory O'Gorman is also on the L & B team. Their mothers are (formerly) the Wickham sisters – Carol and Phil, respectively – who were top players on the ILGU scene for many years.
Meanwhile, Westport have three survivors from the team which lost the All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-finals in 2006 on duty against Slieve Russell today. They are player-manager Shane Larkin, Tony Breen and Ronan Mahon.
AIG Cups and Shields
At Royal Tara GC
Barton Shield semi - finals: 10.30 Cork v Clandeboye (Cork names first): M Ford & I O'Flynn v G Laird & L Crawford; G O'Flaherty & J Hickey v C Murphy & W Russell. 10.50 Rosslare v Co Sligo: G Collins & I Lynch v S Flanagan & D Reidy; M Mullen & T O'Leary v G McDermott & S O'Hara.
Junior Cup semi-finals: 11.10 Slieve Russell v Westport: B McGowan v S Larkin; D Donohue v J Healy; B Cunningham v T Bree; B Cribben v R Hehir; S Monteith v R Mahon. 12.0 Laytown & Bettystown v Ballybunion: R O'Gorman v J Molyneaux Jr; M Gogarty v F Geary Jr; E Collins v S Carroll; C Taylor v R Hanley; S Ward v J Lynch.