Barton Shield is all set for blast off at Carton House
FOUR days of high-powered inter-club action will tee-off at Carton House on Wednesday as players in the men's AIG All-Ireland Cups and Shields finals, spanning all handicap sections, will battle for victory until Saturday.
Every competition has its own attraction as the provincial winners clash for the ultimate prize.
In the spotlight, today, will be the Barton Shield and Junior Cup semi-finals with Galway and North West setting the wheels in motion, as they bid for a place in tomorrow's Barton Shield Foursomes final. Galway were winners of the pennant, at Shandon Park for the fourth time, in 2007 but Senior Cup success in 2005 is North West's sole All-Ireland triumph.
On Wednesday, Galway will have 2007 West of Ireland champion Joe Lyons in the team again along with Tom Nolan whose son also played eight years ago.
North West emerged from Ulster with a provincial final win over Warrenpoint, spearheaded by the likes of Ryan Gribben and Kyle McCarron. McCarron is an honorary member of the club and may well be in direct opposition to his Maynooth University fellow undergraduate Ronan Mullarney, who will also play with Maynooth in the Senior Cup.
He reached the quarter-finals in the North of Ireland Championship in July, losing by 2&1 to eventual winner John-Ross Galbraith.
Gribben, a former member of Warrenpoint, partners Kealan Quigg and they combined nicely to card a four holes win over last year's All-Ireland finalists Warrenpoint in the Ulster final. It was a killer blow as four holes was the winning margin.
Muskerry was the team that defeated Warrenpoint in last year's All-Ireland Barton Shield final and the Cork side is now looking for back-to-back national titles. Last year's victory was Musketry’s first Barton Shield success in 61 years.
Royal Dublin now provide the opposition in the semi-finals, after beating a strong Laytown & Bettystown in the Leinster final. Prominent for the Dubs have been Ian O'Rourke and Barry Anderson, both regulars in the North of Ireland Championship. Backboning the holders are former men's Irish International Niall Gorey and Dave Donovan.
Douglas will provide the opposition to Greenisland in the Junior Cup semi-finals, today, while Dundalk and Westport will battle for the other place in tomorrow's final.
Greenisland overcame Lurgan in the Ulster final with David Winning the hero of the day and they now meet a young Douglas side that includes teenager Barry O'Sullivan-Geaney who twice hauled the team through. He secured the winning point in the Munbster semi-final against Mitchelstown and against Ballybunion, in the last match, he went ahead for the first time at the 17th hole, then held his nerve to roll in a four-footer on the home green to take Douglas to Carton House.
Westport players Tony Bree, Anto Browne and Ronan Mahon have been trying since 2006 to win the Juniior Cup. They lost that year to The Island in the semi-finals and two years ago lost the final to Ballybunion. Now they hope to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of their first victory in 1960 starting with a semi-final win over Dundalk in the semi-final.
AIG All-Ireland Cup & Shield semi-finals and finals, at Carton House
Barton Shield semi-finals: Galway v North West; Muskerry v Royal Dublin; Junior Cup semi-finals: Dundalk v Westport; Greenisland v Douglas.
Pierce Purcell Shield semi-finals: Grange v Thurles; Nuremore v Gort; Junior Cup final; Barton Shield final.
Senior Cup semi-finals: Athlone v Maynooth; Knock v Limerick; Pierce Purcell Shield final; Jimmy Bruen Shield semi-finals: Castlebar v Greystones; Ballybunion v Fortwilliam.
Jimmy Bruen Shield final; Senior Cup final