Wednesday 16 October 2019

Roscommon end 43-year wait for glory

Epic Fred Daly victory lands the club its first All-Ireland pennant, writes Brian Keogh

Heart and soul: Roscommon landed the Fred Daly title in very testing conditions at Castle Dargan. Photo: Pat Cashman
Heart and soul: Roscommon landed the Fred Daly title in very testing conditions at Castle Dargan. Photo: Pat Cashman

Brian Keogh

Blood pressure levels were dangerously high at Castle Dargan last weekend as Roscommon ended their 43-year wait for an All Ireland pennant with an epic victory in the Fred Daly Trophy.

The Connacht champions beat Muskerry 3-2 when Fionn Hoare got up and down in fading light for a winning par at the 20th.

It was a particularly tense afternoon for Roscommon team captain Michael Connaughton, a former President of the GUI, who had one son on the bench and another in the thick of the action.

"We are all over the moon," he said after Roscommon won a second green pennant to go with the Pierce Purcell Shield they won in Tramore in 1976. "It's a great achievement by the lads. They played their hearts out.

"We can't take it in. It's our first time to win it. The boys put their heart and soul into it in conditions that were as trying as you could imagine.

"The quality and standard of golf was just incredible."

The blue riband under 18 title is one of the most coveted in Irish golf with two-time champions Co Sligo, the only previous winners from Connacht.

The seven-strong panel members are all school friends at CBS Roscommon and having come up the ranks together, they have pushed each other on.

The team of Boys international Simon Walker, Thomas Higgins, Cian O'Connor, Hoare and Kevin Connaughton beat Slieve Russell 3.5-1.5 favourites Muskerry cruised to a 4-1 win over a strong Mullingar side.

Roscommon were not to be denied, however, but after Walker and Higgins delivered two early points, it took some heroics to clinch the third.

It looked as though Kevin Connaughton would be the man of the hour at the 18th, but he took three from the fringe and lost on the 19th to Eoghan O'Shaughnessy's brilliant sand save.

Hoare only stayed alive in his match with Stephen Riordan by getting up and down for a half in five at the 18th having been forced to take a penalty drop along the way.

After getting up and down again at the 19th, he repeated the feat at the 20th when the title was on the line.

"It was a huge effort all year," said the skipper, who had a strong bench in Michael Corcoran and his other son Alan.

"This team has been building since these boys were 11 or 12. They grew up together, started playing together and have kept pushing themselves on."

The input of individual coaches such as Declan Cunningham, in the case of Walker and Higgins, or Castle Dargan professional Xavier Medas, who looks after Hoare, has been key, but it's family that makes the difference.

"You can have all the Junior Convenors you want, but you need the parents involved," captain Connaughton said.

"They chauffeur them and make the sacrifices in family holidays to cover the cost of these championships - north, south, east and west."

Roscommon does not have a club professional, but Athlone based Philip Murphy has made a big difference with his regular visits.

Having come away empty- handed from the AIG men's Finals at Westport and the Ladies Finals at Knightsbrook. Roscommon's fears of a hat-trick of disappointments proved unfounded.

Community spirit was also key with the club raising €6,000 to help their teams with their A ll Ireland bids.

Vice-captain Tommy Greally from the Abbey Hotel and men's secretary Paul McNally from McNally Motors Toyota Longford sponsored the boys team and with the members and coach Cunningham dipped into their pockets for the rest.

"To win is beyond words," Michael added. "I don't think the lads realise what they have achieved. An All Ireland doesn't come into a club very handily.

"We are going to get a bit of mileage out of this!"

Fred Daly Trophy, All Ireland Finals, Castle Dargan Golf Club

Semi-Finals: Mullingar 1 Muskerry 4: A Smith halved with F Hickey; S Murtagh lost to J Egan 7&5; M McCormack lost to Z Collin 3&2; L Kane halved with S Riordan; M Mina Ronayne lost to E O'Shaughnessy 6&5. Roscommon 3.5 Slieve Russell 1.5: S Walker bt R McNelis 3&1; T Higgins bt O Maguire 6&4; C O'Connor lost to D Beirne 4&3; F Hoare halved with J Hughes; K Connaughton bt O Rooney 4&3.

Final: Muskerry 2 Roscommon 3: F Hickey lost to S Walker 2 holes; J Egan lost to T Higgins 3&2; Z Collins bt C O'Connor 3&2; S Riordan lost to F Hoare 20th; E O'Shaughnessy bt K Connaughton 19th.

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