Sunday 21 October 2018

Lenehan's late heroics give Portmarnock glory

Portumna players Michael Flanagan, Ger Lynch, Sam Murphy, Eamonn Devan and Damien Burke after their victory in the AIG Junior Cup at Thurles. Picture by Pat Cashman
Portumna players Michael Flanagan, Ger Lynch, Sam Murphy, Eamonn Devan and Damien Burke after their victory in the AIG Junior Cup at Thurles. Picture by Pat Cashman

Brian Keogh

Geoff Lenehan produced two moments of magic to beat his hero and give Portmarnock their 20th AIG Senior Cup victory at Thurles.

The 30-year-old restaurateur was the matchwinner for Portmarnock at Castlerock seven years ago and Munster's hero in the Interprovincial matches for the second time in his career earlier this summer

And he proved to be the talisman again yesterday, producing a miraculous chip-in to halve the 17th and a winning birdie at the 19th to beat former Walker Cup player Paul Cutler (29) and seal a nailbiting 4-1 win over Royal Portrush.

The Dublin club was up in all five matches early on and they looked to be cruising to victory when international star Conor Purcell clinched a 5&4 win over Richard McCrudden and Stephen Walsh made seven birdies in his 4&2 win over Andrew Morris.

Stymied

But Royal Portrush refused to go down without a fight and it took some late heroics from Lenehan to seal the deal against Cutler at the first extra hole, where he made an eagle three on Saturday to clinch a 3.5-1.5 semi-final win over the holders Galway.

All square in a match he'd led 2-up at the turn, he was stymied in the trees left and had a fresh air with his first attempt to escape before moving his third just a few yards.

Lenehan rifled a four-iron through the green onto the 18th tee-box with his fourth, and after watching Cutler tug his approach into the left rough, chipped in for an unlikely bogey. Picture by Pat Cashman
Lenehan rifled a four-iron through the green onto the 18th tee-box with his fourth, and after watching Cutler tug his approach into the left rough, chipped in for an unlikely bogey. Picture by Pat Cashman

But Lenehan then rifled a four-iron through the green onto the 18th tee-box with his fourth, and after watching Cutler tug his approach into the left rough, chipped in for an unlikely bogey.

It was such a shock that Cutler fluffed his first chip, knocked his fourth shot eight feet past and did well to halve the hole in five.

The former West of Ireland, Irish Close, East of Ireland and Lytham Trophy winner, who was reinstated as an amateur three years ago after a brief professional career, then made a crucial error on the par-five 18th.

After two majestic strikes left a 15-foot eagle putt for the match, he three-putted and Lenehan proved implacable on the 19th.

With James Fox level with Matt McAlpin playing the 18th and Darragh Coghlan all square with Mark McMurray in the match behind, he drilled a 240-yard hybrid to the front edge of the 507-yard, par-five first and two-putted for a winning birdie from 25 feet.

He was thrilled to beat a player he's admired for years and when asked about that crucial chip-in at the 17th, he paid tribute to another Munster legend.

"You are just trying to keep applying the pressure," he said. "We had John McHenry with us with Munster this year, and he kept saying just keep moving forward, apply pressure, apply pressure, you never know. You get lucky sometimes."

Portumna added the AIG Junior Cup to their victory in last week's Irish Mixed Foursomes when they beat Belfast club Fortwilliam 4-1 with Connacht U-16 champion Sam Murphy leading from the front. A Transition Year boarder in Roscrea, Murphy (16) racked up a 6&4 win over Gary Brown at number one before Gerard Lynch made it 2-0 with 4&2 win over Conor Bradley and Damien Burke closed out the match 4&2 win over Declan Hughes at number three.

"It's great to finish with a win," said Murphy, who will play for the Irish Boys in a match against England at Limerick next week having reduced his handicap from 3.5 to scratch this year.

"At the start of the year we said it would be great to win an All-Ireland with the team, it's unbelievable really. I turned 16 in August and won the Connacht Under 16s Open.

"I'll see now if I can make a boys' team and get a few more wins under the belt."

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