Bann’s wait for All Ireland Senior Cup trophy goes on after narrow semi defeat

Banbridge Senior Cup team members Connor Doran, Jim Carvill, Colin Wilton along with Ken Stevenson.
Banbridge Senior Cup team members Connor Doran, Jim Carvill, Colin Wilton along with Ken Stevenson.

The Senior Cup is the oldest and most prestigious trophy in Irish amateur golf and one Banbridge narrowly missed out on after a semi-final defeat in the All-Ireland finals at Carton House at the weekend.

It was first played for in the year 1900. The Banbridge category one players have won every other honour in the game but the Senior Cup has eluded them so far.

They came very close to lifting it in 2007 when they reached the All-Ireland final. They lost to County Sligo at Shandon Park.

They thought that maybe this was their year to go one better after claiming the Ulster title back in August, beating Rosapenna in the final.

Team captain Paul McAleavey had meticulously prepared his team but they knew that they were in for a tough battle as they were drawn against the holders County Sligo in the final four. Yes, it was that team again.

The battle commenced early on Friday morning.

The first result in was a six and five win for Colin Wilton over Ruairi O’Connor. Colin was in scintillating form and he gave his opponent no chance from start to finish.

And there was more good news for Banbridge. Connor Doran eagled the first hole against Sean Flanaghan and then reeled off five birdies in a row from the fourth to the eighth hole. He was six under par for the first nine holes and three up. Unsurprisingly given his form, Connor won his match three and and.

This was an unbelievable start with top quality golf but could it last?

Rory Leonard, considered a banker by almost everyone, however, was just not at his best. He lost by four and three to Irish International Steffan O’Hara.

This competition was a new experience for Stefan Greenberg. He started nervously against Mark Morrisey and lost a few holes early on. He staged a bit of a comeback but it was not enough and he ended up losing five and three.

The match was now tied at two games apiece. Everything depended on the game between Banbridge’s Jim Carvill and Sligo’s Declan Reidy, two very experienced and talented players.

They were all square at the turn. Jim had a chance to go one up at the ninth but his shortish putt slipped past the hole.

Declan gained the upper hand on the inward nine and, despite Jim’s best efforts, he got to the 17th tee dormie two up.

Declan went for the green at this long par five and put his ball into the middle of a bush to give a glimmer of hope to Jim and the Banbridge support. It looked like a chance for their man to keep the match alive.

The County Sligo player took a penalty drop and then proceeded to play a miraculous recovery shot from 55 yards out, over a tree. The ball finished 25 feet from the hole. Jim was on in three, one less than his opponent and closer to the hole at 20 feet away. Surely he would have two putts for the win. Not so. Declan, under the utmost pressure, holed his raker of a putt for a par. Typical of the top quality golf of the All ireland Senior Cup finals.

It was now a different story. Jim had to hole his putt for the win. It looked as if he had got it but, at the last second, his ball turned ever so slightly and stayed above ground, inches from the hole.

Jim was beaten by two and one and Banbridge were edged out by the narrowest of margins, three and two.

It was all very sad, if you were a Banbridge player or supporter. It was a wonderful match and everyone gave 100%.

It all means that the Senior Cup is still a nemesis as far as Banbridge Golf Club is concerned but life goes on and there will always be another chance to end their wait next season.

Incidentally, County Sligo were beaten in the final by a strong Tramore side.