Lyons stays ice-cool to seal Senior Cup victory
Galway edge out Carton House in thrilling climax to claim second title in three years
Offaly and Westmeath have a fierce rivalry in GAA circles, but there was nothing but respect from Mullingar man Dessie Morgan after Banagher native Joe Lyons denied him with a stroke of genius.
Lyons' 182-yard seven-iron to 18 inches at Westport's par-five 18th gave Galway a 3-2 win over Carton House in the AIG Senior Cup that secured their second title in the last three years and their sixth since 2006.
"Westmeath men and All-Ireland finals," Morgan said with a smile, casting his eyes to heaven as his Senior Cup dream evaporated in front of his eyes. "They don't really happen."
He could only grin as he shook hands with Lyons, who joined Galway in 2003 when they had seven Senior Cup final appearances under their belt, but no wins.
Now they have won six in the space of 14 years after the 47-year Offaly native hit one of the great clutch shots under pressure to stop some late bleeding and seal the deal in the shadow of Croagh Patrick yesterday.
Galway had two points in the bag after Boys international Luke O'Neill beat Darragh Flynn 3&2 and another teenager, Liam Nolan, eased to a 5&4 win over Paul O'Hanlon in the anchor match.
While international Keith Egan beat veteran Eddie McCormack 4&3 and Gary McDermott edged out Irish Close champion Ronan Mullarney by one hole, Lyons was three-up with four to play against Morgan and cruising to victory.
When he three-putted the 16th and 17th to go to the 566-yard 18th with the narrowest of leads, Morgan could smell blood in the water.
He felt he had to go for the 18th in two when Lyons drove into sand and was forced to lay up.
But he pushed his approach into the penalty area right of the green and Lyons did not need any more encouragement, spearing a brilliant third to within birdie distance that Morgan could not match with his pitch.
"I'd say that added about 10 years to my life there," said a relieved but happy Lyons, who won the Munster Strokeplay title in May and went unbeaten in the Senior Cup and the Interpros this year.
"You want to be there, and you want to be in with a chance to win but when it's all on you the last few holes, and you're my age and three-putt a couple of holes on the way in, you're kind of thinking: 'You want to be careful what you wish for.'"
He was proud to win his fourth Senior Cup for Galway, whose deep squad and powerful blend of youth and experience proved a winning formula.
"Myself and Joe slag each other because there's a month between us in age," team captain Gerry Cox said.
"I have to admit with Eddie (46) and Joe (47), the way that they've interacted with the younger guys in the squad this year has been fantastic."
In the AIG Junior Cup, hosts Westport claimed the title with a resounding 4-1 win over Dun Laoghaire that was far tighter than it looks on paper.
The Mayo men had lost three finals since 2006, but they were not to be denied on home soil yesterday, just 48 hours after the death of former Westport and GUI President, Gar Golden.
Ronan Hehir beat Brian Begley, and Ronan Mahon saw off Patrick McCann to make it 2-0 to the hosts.
But the third point proved elusive until Anto Browne two-putted the 19th from just off the green to beat Jamie Campbell with a priceless par-four.
"He was a great clubman, and he was great for the GUI," team captain Tony Bree said of Golden. "Hopefully, he was looking down on us, and he got us over the line." Tandragee claimed their first green pennant in dramatic fashion on Saturday with a 3-2 win over The Island when Jeff Forde and Aidan Place birdied the 19th to beat John Gartland and Conor McGleenon in the AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield.
It also went to the 19th in the final match in the AIG Pierce Purcell Shield, where Charleville beat Castlebar 3-2 after Paddy O'Kelly and Ciaran Herlihy beat John Quigley and Carl Rose.
"It's not good for the heart, I swear to God," gasped Charleville manager Anthony Fitzgerald after the Cork club made it a ninth successive success for Munster clubs in the event.
"We're a small club. We're a club that were going very well a few years ago, but the recession hit us. We're coming back bit by bit and days like today make everything a little bit easier."