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Helly in heaven at Rosapenna after win over Olivia Mehaffey

Tony McGee

THE candles burned brightly on Sarah Helly’s birthday cake last night after the Enniscrone player pulled off a sensational win over title favourite Olivia Mehaffey in the

sun-kissed final of the Irish Ladies’ Close Championship at Rosapenna.

After dumping out holder Mary Doyle 2&1 in the morning semis, Helly stormed to an unexpected 6&5 defeat of Mehaffey, who now heads to Malone to join her Vagliano Trophy team colleagues for the weekend clash between GB&I and the Continent of Europe.

After a testing early period in the final, Helly went one up on Mehaffey at the sixth hole.

After the seventh was halved she galloped off to win eight, nine, 10 and 12 before polishing off her 6&5 victory with birdie three at 13.

“It hasn’t all sunk in yet but I am certainly going to enjoy this birthday like never before,” she promised.

Birdies had flown in between Mehaffey and Laura Doherty in the first semi-final before the Royal County Down teenager skipped into the afternoon decider.

She birdied the ninth hole to turn three up but Trinity College undergraduate Doherty, who spent some time in America, stormed back to birdie 12 and 13 and she won 14 in regulation to level the match.

However, the experienced Mehaffey failed to wilt and a win on 17 gave her a 2&1 victory.

The other semi-final was a birthday birdie battle as both Doyle and Helly were celebrating a birthday, though it wasn’t such an enjoyable one for defending champion Doyle.

Helly took control with birdie at the first hole and she was two up after another birdie at 11, before the holder hit back with birdie at 13 to narrow the gap, again.

Still, westerner Helly refused to crumble and restored her two-hole lead at the next with birdie four.

Doyle, proving to be a determined champion, didn’t let go as she birdied 13 but it was her last ace as Helly grabbed her first birthday present of the day, a 2&1 win, with birdie at 17.

Shauna McVeigh (RCDL) had higher honours in mind, I’d imagine, than the Ladies’ Plate Trophy but, after missing the cut, the former professional had to be content with the secondary award.

In yesterday’s semi-finals she had a comfortable 6&5 win over Claire McGonagle (Portsalon) before defeating Maeve Kelly (Castle Dargan) by two holes in the final.

It could be the sign that McVeigh, in her first season back as an amateur, could be building up to bigger things in the near future.

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