It’s like the Champions League of golf but unlike the continent’s premier football tournament which has yet to be retained by any club, Muskerry’s Niall Gorey is hopeful the Cork club can become the first back-to-back winners of the AIG Barton Shield for 18 years.
The AIG Cups and Shields National Finals tees off at Carton House’s pristine O’Meara Course today with Muskerry facing what Gorey describes as the competition’s “superstar” team in Royal Dublin as Galway take on Ulster champions North West in the first of the semi-finals.
“With the golf we played last year, there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it,” Gorey said. “But All Irelands are hard to win and foursomes golf is even harder, especially against good players.
“Everything seemed to go our way last year and everything went in. And as we are four good friends and that’s worth a couple of shot a round in my opinion.”
Gorey and his close pal Dave O’Donovan take on senior interprovincials Shaun Carter and Jeff Hopkins today as Daniel Hallissey and new team member Shane Whooley face Cork man Ian O’Rourke and Sligo native Barry Anderson.
Many believe it’s the tie that will decide the title but not Gorey, who heard the same talk about Royal Dublin’s clash with Warrenpoint last year.
“I don’t think Galway or North West would like to hear that,” Gorey said, recalling how Muskerry upset Warrenpoint in the final 12 months ago.
“Royal Dublin are red hot favourites so hopefully we can just give them a good game. The pressure is on them. They are the superstar team and we are just there to do our best.
“You need some luck but we had the friendship factor on our side last year - we are four very good friends and the wives and girlfriends are good friends. Playing with your buddies is different that playing on a team that has just been put together.
“We are in good shape and playing well but we have a massive task against Royal Dublin. They are probably the best team we have played in the whole two years. And that’s no exaggeration.
“Warrenpoint were excellent in the final last year and like us, they were all good friends. But from a playing talent point of view, Royal Dublin are miles ahead of everybody. They have four senior interprovincials in their team.”
As for Galway, former West of Ireland winner Joe Lyons teams up with Sligo native Stephen Brady against Kealan Quigg and Ryan Gribben, who was a member of that losing Warrenpoint quartet last year.
Then there are the silky short game skills of Ronan Mullarney and partner Colm Hughes against Garrett Mallon and Kyle McCarron, who is one of Mullarney’s Maynooth University team mates during the academic year.
Today also brings the AIG Junior Cup semis with favourites Westport, beaten finalists two years ago, taking on Dundalk and Ulster champions Greenisland facing Munster kingpins Douglas for a place in tomorrow’s final.
There’s a lot of excitement at Douglas as the club bids to end a 16-year wait for the club’s fifth All Ireland title with a young team featuring six of last year’s Munster winning Fred Daly team.
AIG Cups and Shields National Finals, Carton House (O’Meara)
AIG Barton Shield, Semi Finals
(1030) Galway v North West (Galway names first)
- Joe Lyons & Stephen Brady v Kealan Quigg & Ryan Gribben;
- Ronan Mullarney & Colm Hughes v Garrett Mallon & Kyle McCarron
(1048) Muskerry v Royal Dublin (Muskerry first)
- Niall Gorey & Dave O'Donovan v Shaun Carter & Jeff Hopkins
- Daniel Hallissey & Shane Whooley v Ian O'Rourke & Barry Anderson
AIG Junior Cup, Semi Finals
(1106) Dundalk v Westport (Dundalk first)
- Ciaran Sheridan v Tony Bree;
- Eoin Murphy v Anto Browne;
- Ricky Newell v David Scott;
- Josh Mackin v Sam Gillivan;
- Aaron King v Fergus Rothwell
(1151) Greenisland v Douglas (Greenisland first)
- Andrew Ervine v Darren Hourihan;
- Jamie Campbell v Adam McSweeney;
- John Armstrong v Philip Quinn;
- David Winning v John Boylan;
- Michael Hayes v Barry O'Sullivan Geaney