Galway insist they have a point to prove as they bid for the first leg of a dream double in the AIG Barton Shield semi-finals at Carton House today.
The elite foursomes event will be the curtain-raiser for All-Ireland finals of the biggest annual amateur golfing competition in Europe with the Connacht champions taking on Tralee and reigning champions Warrenpoint meeting Leinster kingpins Castle in the other semi-final.
Galway are seeking a rare AIG Barton Shield and Senior Cup double last achieved by Shandon Park in 2000.
And they know getting past Tralee today is the first objective with veteran Joe Lyons partnering Boys international Luke O'Neill against Darren O'Sullivan and Eoghan O'Donnell as Ronan Mullarney and Liam Power meet Tralee's Fergal O'Sullivan and Rory Hill.
"We’re confident, put it that way,” Lyons said. “We’ve lost two All-Ireland finals in the last two years here, so we have a point to prove this year.
"We’ve a young squad, with the exception of myself and everyone is playing really well. There’s a really good buzz around the team this year.
"If we turn up on the day, we’re capable of beating anyone. If we don’t go home with a green pennant this week be it Barton Shield or Senior Cup, we’ll be very disappointed."
Defending champions Warrenpoint are seeking a seventh AIG Barton Shield success and despite losing Irish Close champion Jamie Fletcher with an infected thumb for the clash with Castle, they still look strong.
"Hopefully if we need him on Thursday, he’ll be back in,” said skipper Colm Campbell Snr, whose son Colm Jnr partners Ryan Gribben against Alex Gleeson and Robert Moran.
Stephen Coulter and Paul Reavey take on Castle's Jack Walsh and Alan Lowry in the other match and Campbell Snr vowed his charges will be going "hell for leather" to retain the trophy after the disappointment of their Ulster Senior Cup semi-final loss.
"The Senior Cup was a big disappointment, so we’re going for this one," he said of his experienced side's 3-2 defeat to Royal Portrush on the 24th.
“With the squad that we have, it just doesn’t happen for us (in the Senior Cup) for some reason.
"But Barton Shield is a different animal, so again, we just have to go for it. We want to go home with something!"
The four-day golfing festival is the culmination of months of nerve-jangling competition with an estimated 40,000 golfers and 1,800 club teams starting the race for just five All Ireland pennants.
The AIG Junior Cup looks wide open with Loughrea facing Ballybunion and Malone taking on Grange for a place in tomorrow’s final.
Loughrea will be chasing their first success in the competition for five handicappers and face a tough task against Ballybunion, the 2013 champions.
For Grange, it’s been 71 years since their lone Junior Cup success of 1947 and a tight match lies in store against Malone, who ended an 86-year wait for their second success in Tullamore eight years ago.
AIG Cups and Shields National Finals, Carton House (O'Meara Course)
AIG Barton Shield Semi-Finals
(1030) Tralee v Galway (Tralee names first):
- D O’Sullivan & E O'Donnell v J Lyons & L O'Neill;
- F O'Sullivan & R Hill v R Mullarney & L Power;
(1048) Castle v Warrenpoint (Castle names first):
- J Walsh & A Lowry v S Coulter & P Reavey;
- A Gleeson & R Moran v C Campbell Jnr. & R Gribben.
AIG Junior Cup Semi-Finals
(1106) Loughrea v Ballybunion (Loughrea names first):
- P Hynes v P Byrne;
- E O’Doherty v F Geary Jnr;
- P McMahon v R Cross;
- D Byrnes v A Walsh;
- B Dunne v B Slattery;
(1151) Malone v Grange (Malone names first):
- B Brennan v K O’Meara;
- L O’Sullivan v P McNiff;
- J Millar v G McDonnell;
- D Fleming v N McCormick;
- J Thompson v J Ward.
- AIG Pierce Purcell Shield Semi-Finals: (0800) Royal Curragh v Moyola Park; (0845) Thurles v Portumna.
- (1045) AIG Junior Cup Final;
- (1130) AIG Barton Shield Final.
- AIG Senior Cup Semi-Finals: (0800) Royal Portrush v Galway; (0845) Limerick v Carton House.
- (1030) AIG Pierce Purcell Shield Final.
- AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield Semi-Finals: (1145) Mountrath v Warrenpoint; (1230) Castlebar v Ballykisteen.
- (0900) AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield Final;
- (1030) AIG Senior Cup Final.