Monday 14 October 2019

Minnows a major part of 'colossal' golfing festival

New Forest's Minor Cup victory epitomises the dedication, hard work and spirit of everyone involved in the AIG Ladies Cups and Shields Finals

Emotion: Rita O’Shea cries tears of joy as New Forest won the AIG Minor Cup Final at Knightsbrook Hotel and Golf Resort. Photo: Pat
Emotion: Rita O’Shea cries tears of joy as New Forest won the AIG Minor Cup Final at Knightsbrook Hotel and Golf Resort. Photo: Pat Cashman

Brian Keogh

Four days. Thirty clubs. Eight-four matches and 191 golfers.

The AIG Ladies Cups and Shields Finals is a mammoth organisational task for the ILGU and the host club.

But it was well worth the effort for everyone involved as Knightsbrook Hotel, Spa & Golf Resort staged a sensational festival of golf that produced six worthy champions.

Knightsbrook's Golf Operations Executive Dominic Murray and Assistant Executive Kate Jones worked long hours to make sure it all went off without a hitch at the pristine resort near Trim.

"I think it is a colossal competition," said the ILGU President Brigid McCaw as teams scurried out to do battle at Peter Igoe's Co Meath venue.

"The fact that 300 golf clubs the length and breadth of the island of Ireland take part in it says it all. It gives everybody, no matter what their handicap, the chance to play and compete and they all love it.

"Of course, we could do none of this without the sponsorship of AIG. We simply couldn't do without them.

"With clubs like New Forest, who weren't even affiliated a few years ago, the entire ladies club is here.

"One-third of them are playing, another third are caddying, and the rest are here to cheer them on. And the men are behind them too. It's terrific."

New Forest were one of the great stories to emerge from the week's action as they captured the AIG Minor Cup with a 4-1 win over Kilmashogue, another tiny club with small but vibrant membership.

The Minor Cup final was one of three deciders that could not be finished on Friday after heavy rain delayed the start by more than two hours.

But while it took only ten minutes to finish off the final on Saturday, it was well worth the wait for New Forest.

As Ireland fell to Japan in the Rugby World Cup, the ladies from Co Westmeath were oblivious to it all as player- manager Anne Naughton led their celebrations with an impromptu Haka near the 17th green.

"I got up at 4.30 to leave at 7am but all is good now," said Anne with a grin. "I was in good position on 17 when I saw the Lady Captain coming towards me to tell me we had won.

"Kilmashogue were in position to make history too. So it's marvellous for the ILGU that two small clubs should contest the final."

Rita O'Shea got the winning point on the 18th for New Forest for the second match running, and she put their achievement in perspective.

"I was first lady captain and we have 50 members with nearly half of them only coming in through the 'Get Into Golf' programme over the last two years.

"We were affiliated in 2014, which was only five years ago. It's unreal for our club."

Team captain, Mary Fallon added: "Two years ago we hadn't enough players to field a Minor Cup team, and here we are All-Ireland Champions.

"It is unthinkable. In 2016 we only had 20 female members, today we have 50. They're all new members. It's a dream come true."

Kilmashogue's manager Breda Murtagh said: "We only have 89 lady members and we are tiny. We literally have just eight players in the Minor Cup category - just the bare amount to make up the team and subs, so we can't afford anyone to be sick. "

The club captain, Anne O'Dea was immensely proud of her troops.

"What a run," she said. "We were making such history for the club but just lost it on the last match today. We are so proud because it is such an achievement to be in an All Ireland final. We have no complaints.

"We will be looking for members now, and it will be a great advertisement for the club."

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