Tramore won games on the 19th and 20th to squeeze into Saturday's AIG Senior Cup final against reigning champions Co Sligo, writes the GUI.
After Paul Flynn made par to beat Mark Mullen on his second extra hole, Alan Thomas produced a timely birdie on 19 to overcome Paul Murphy and seal the decisive point just as Ian Lynch and David Kiely were heading for extra holes in the final game. It was a nailbiting finish for the Waterford men who were trailing in four games after a poor start.
“After nine holes, we were dead and buried,” said Thomas. “I remember looking at the scoreboard and we were three down, two down, one up, two down and three down. But we're long in the tooth. We're six years together. We don't give up. There's a good bit of belief in the lads.”
Thomas had his work cut out against talented Rosslare teenager Paul Murphy. Despite covering the front nine in two under par, Thomas was one down at the turn. Murphy drained a 40-footer for birdie on the second and stayed ahead until the 16th hole when a bogey enabled Thomas to edge ahead.
Murphy showed his class on 18 by putting his approach to 10 feet and when Thomas failed to get up and down from the back of the green, they headed for 19. At that stage, Paul Flynn had just secured Tramore's second point on the 20th so the match was left in Thomas' hands.
“I'm delighted,” said Thomas after making what turned out to be a winning birdie putt on the first extra hole. “I was nervous, I'm shaking here a little bit.”
Co Sligo's semi-final victory wasn't as fraught as they beat Banbridge 3-2. Declan Reidy was the Sligo saviour when he made a miraculous up and down on 17 to beat the experienced Jim Carvill 2&1. Needing just a half to close out the game, Reidy found trouble when his second shot bounced into a bush short of the green.
“I thought it was going to be in the greenside bunker but it must have just taken a big hop left and went under the bush,” said Reidy, who had 280-yards downwind for his second shot.
“It was a comfortable 3-wood. If it had found the greenside bunker it would have been an easy enough up and down to make him make birdie or worse to bring it up 18.”
Instead Reidy produced a gutsy par, having had to play a flop shot over a tree from 55 yards. When he holed out, Carvill needed his birdie putt to keep Banbridge alive. When his effort rolled past the cup, Co Sligo had their third point and a return ticket to the final against Tramore.
“It's brilliant. It's great to get over the line again. That's all we wanted, the chance to defend our title and we're back where we want to be,” said Mark Morrissey, who beat Stefan Greenberg 5&3 in the bottom match for Co Sligo.
“By the time I was finished I had just heard we had taken it in so that was brilliant,” said Morrissey who was part of the team that won last year's Senior Cup at Royal Tara. A win against Tramore in Saturday's (20 September) final would give Co Sligo back-to-back titles for the second time in their history, having won successive championships in 1997.
AIG Cups and Shields, at Carton House Golf Club
AIG Senior Cup Semi Finals
Tramore 3.5, Rosslare 1.5 (Tramore names first)
- Robin Dawson lost to Gary Collins 4/3;
- Paul Flynn bt Mark Mullen 20th;
- Chris Butler bt Tony O’Leary 4/3;
- Alan Thomas bt Paul Murphy 19th;
- David Kiely halved with Ian Lynch.
County Sligo 3, Banbridge 2 (County Sligo names first)
- Declan Reidy bt Jim Carvill 2/1;
- Sean Flanagan lost to Connor Doran 3/2;
- Ruairi O’Connor lost to Colin Wilton 6/5;
- Steffan O’Hara bt Rory Leonard 4/3;
- Mark Morrissey bt Stefan Greenberg 5/3
Saturday 20th September
AIG Senior Cup Final - 9.00am
Tramore v Co Sligo (Tramore names first)
- Robin Dawson v Sean Flanagan;
- Paul Flynn v Declan Reidy;
- Chris Butler v David Brady;
- Alan Thomas v Steffan O’Hara;
- David Kiely v Mark Morrissey