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Superb Tralee secure top spot

SEPTEMBER comes and a Kerry team wins an All-Ireland. No, it's not the Dubs' greatest nightmare -- at least not yet! -- but when it comes to a national title, the Kerry folk tend to rise to the challenge.

In this case it was the 2011 Allianz-Irish Independent Executive Trophy final, played at the K Club on Thursday. The winners were the Tralee GC team of captain Michael O'Connell (14), lady captain Monica O'Neill (21) and president Michael Coote (2).

This dynamic trio compiled 77 points on the two-to-count stableford format over the Palmer Course to take the glittering Waterford Crystal top prize.

They were followed home by Laytown and Bettystown -- captain Russell Durnin (1), lady captain Bernie Mullan (31), hon secretary Brian Crinion (10) -- who finished in second place on 73 points.

The third and fourth clubs, Wicklow and Galway, each carded 72 points, with Wicklow edging out the Connacht combination on a back-nine count back. Wicklow were represented by their captain David Delaney (7), lady captain Mairead Dowling (10) and president Keith Clarke, who plays off seven handicap.

Galway's captain Kieran O'Mahoney (6), was backed up by lady captain Antoinette Waldron (22) and president William Herterich (20). You can see the range of handicaps and that's one of the great things about this event -- which is now in its 15th year -- the team cannot be packed.

Each club has to consist of a captain, lady captain and an honorary officer. The format enhances the social nature of the event, but there's also a nice touch of healthy competitiveness.

Brendan Murphy, CEO of Allianz Ireland, welcomed the participants who had qualified from regional events staged at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, Cork GC, Malone, Mount Juliet and Glasson.

"It is my pleasure on behalf of Allianz Ireland and our co-sponsors, the Irish Independent, to congratulate the club officers on their elevation to office this year," he said.


"A special word of thanks must go to the excellent venues which hosted the regional qualifying rounds. The welcome and quality of service we have received from Michael Davern, CEO of The K Club, and the staff in Straffan has been exceptional."

Certainly, Tralee enjoyed their outing. Michael Coote, winner of the Munster seniors and runner-up to Garth McGimpsey in the Ulster seniors, will play for Ireland in the Seniors Home Internationals at Woodhall Spa, England, next week.

The plan was for Michael to anchor the team, which he did very effectively to score 34 points on his own card. Michael O'Connell and lady captain Monica O'Neill also contributed very well and the team's dovetailing proved to be the secret of success.

Their best score was a seven-pointer on the daunting index- two 16th, a 534-yard par-five. President Coote birdied the hole for four points. The lady captain scored a bogey six which, with her two-shot allowance, added three more points.

Tralee captain Michael O'Connell said: "We are delighted to win this prestigious event and we've had two great days out -- first at Cork GC and now today."

Highlights for the Laytown & Bettystown captain Russell Durnin were the eagle three he scored on the 545-yards par-five fourth hole for four points and birdies on the short eighth and the par-four 11th.

Lady captain Bernie Mullen had never previously played at the K Club and will treasure the memory of a nice birdie two on the par-three 12th. Brian Crinion was the epitome of steadiness in the team effort as they fought their way to second place.

Wicklow's representatives had a mixed day. On the one hand, David Delaney, Mairead Dowling and Keith Clarke relished the challenge of the Palmer Course, but the week was tinged with sadness as vice-captain Stephen Devlin had died on Monday.

His funeral was held the day before the K Club final and the Wicklow team would love to have won to dedicate the achievement to his memory. "Wicklow turned out in true colours to honour Stephen at his funeral. He was a great friend of the captain and will be sadly missed," said president Keith Clarke.

Galway captain Kieran O'Mahony led from the front, featuring on every hole and having three birdies during the round. Lady captain Antoinette Waldron was playing for the first time at the Straffan layout and enjoyed the experience.

"I drove the ball very well but found the greens, very fast and very difficult to read," she said.

Every point counted for the prize winners, as K Club (Tom Taaffe, Sallyann O'Connor and Jim Kirwan) were only a point off fourth place on 71. Also on 71 were Glasson (Tom McArdle, Catherine McGann and Oonagh Flynn) and Athenry (Michael Mulryan, Kay Duggan, Fergal Melia).

The evening was rounded off by an excellent meal in the Hotel at the K Club and by a classic cabaret performance by the effervescent Kathy Nugent.

Irish Independent