Fortwilliam golfers begin new Jimmy Bruen qualifying challenge
After climbing to within touching distance of the AIG Jimmy Bruen Shield, at Carton House for the last two years, Fortwilliam golfers must begin at the lowest rung on the ladder, again, as they launch the defence of their Ulster status.
After winning the provincial pennant last season they lost out to Athenry in the All-Ireland semi-finals 3-2.
It was a dramatic finish as the Connacht champions, from Galway, edged out the Ulster winners at the second tie-hole in a shootout.
“That was bitterly disappointing,” recalls the then, as now, joint team captain Eamon Lundy.
“However, we couldn't have asked more from our players. The boys did everything they could have to secure victory but it didn't happen. Afterwards, I said that we had done our best and we should just walk away contented with that.
“Here we are back again, with a number of last year's players, for another attempt and the atmosphere in the squad has been very good.”
Fortwilliam will begin their qualifying stage at home and that can be both an advantage and a disadvantage claims Lundy who share's the captain's duties with Patsy McKenna, once again.
“Playing at home can, of course, be a big advantage but it also puts pressure on the players. They are expected to turn in a good performance at home,” he points out.
Most of last year's panel are involved again but a fresh addition is the club's junior captain, Owen Donnelly.
“Eoin plays off an eight handicap and is a strong player. He certainly boosts our panel,” says Lundy.
Aidan Harkin, Patrick McGurnaghan, Paul Gillen and Conal Duffy are again in the squad along with the likes of Brendan Hillen, Mark Wilson and Alan Hawthorne, providing a lot of experience. Lundy and McKenna have not yet announced their team or pairings for tomorrow's qualifying round but all the panel have played their part in the build-up to yet another crack at bringing home the Jimmy Bruen Shield.
Qualifying will be held at Ballycastle, Ballymena, Co Armagh, Enniskillen, Fortwilliam, North West, St Patrick's and Scrabo. The top four teams from each section will qualify for the matchplay stages and will return to the same venue for the first round, except where a home team qualifies. In that instance, the GUI, who will name the dates, will appoint the venue.
The Ulster final will be played at Dungannon on Friday, August 11 and the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals, of all the AIG inter-club competitions, will return to Carton House on September 20 to 23.
The Ulster Qualifying Draw is:
At Ballycastle – Ballycastle, Bushfoot; Cushendall, Kilrea; Gracehill, Portstewart, Rathmore; City of Derry, Strabane, Faughan Valley; Castlerock, Roe Park, Royal Portrush.
At Ballymena – Ballymena, Galgorm Castle, Antrim; Ballyclare, Greenisland, Massereene; City of Belfast, Greenacres, Whitehead; Cairndhu, Hilton Templepatrick, Moyola Park.
At Co Armagh – Co Armagh, Portadown; Tandragee, Lurgan; Loughgall, Silverwood, Ashfield. Castleblayney, Mannan Castle, Nuremore; Cloverhill, Dungannon, Edenmore.
At Enniskillen – Enniskillen, Castle Hume, Slieve Russell; Aughnacloy, Fintona, Rossmore; Donegal, Newtownstewart, Killymoon; Clones, Co Cavan, Omagh,
At Fortwilliam – Fortwilliam, Carrickfergus, Cliftonville; Knock, Ormeau, Dunmurry; Castlereagh Hills, Down Royal, Lambeg; Balmoral, Malone, Shandon Park.
At North West – North West, Ballyliffin, Foyle; Letterkenny, Ballybofey/Stranorlar, Otway; Cruit Island, Narin & Portnoo, Gweedore; Dunfanaghy, Portsalon, Rosapenna.
At St Patrick's – St Patrick's, Ardglass, Bright Castle; Crossgar, Rockmount, Spa; Banbridge, Lisburn, Warrenpoint; Kilkeel, Mayobridge, Mourne.
At Scrabo – Scrabo, Mahee Island, Belvoir Park; Helen's Bay, Holywood, Royal Belfast; Bangor, Donaghadee, Kirkistown Castle; Blackwood, Carnalea, Clandeboye.