Athenry Golf Club’s Dream Season – 2004

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Back in 1977 Athenry Golf Club had no golf course. Despite this obvious disadvantage, the club won its first ever Connacht title in its then 75-year history when it won the Connacht Shield, using Mountbellew Golf Club for its home matches.

 Perhaps that success gave additional encouragement to the likes of Leo Gardner, Jimmy Reilly, Willy Higgins, Tom Lane, Gilbert McCarthy, Sean Dempsey, John Murphy and Joe Burke, and a small group of other men and women to persevere with the future of the club.

In 1978, the club moved into its new course in Palmerstown.

Little did that group of people even dream of what would become of the club since then. On October 2nd of this year the club again won the Connacht Shield. This was superb achievement in itself, as Athenry retained the trophy it had also won in 2003. But what made this victory truly outstanding was that it was the Club’s fifth Connacht trophy of the year – in addition to its first ever All-Ireland trophy. When one considers that 33 clubs compete in Connacht for 11 trophies each year, for one club to win 5 of the 11 is genuinely unique – and will probably remain so for a very long time.

And what of the above group of men? Well, Jimmy Reilly is Club President this year, while Leo, Gilbert, Willy and Tom were all members of the team that won the 2004 Connacht Seniors (over 55) Inter-Club championship.

But the club is more than the past and elderly men. 17-year-old Andrew Joyce, from Esker, was one of only two players who were on both Connacht Shield teams of 2003 and 2004. Also on the 2004 team were three more teenagers, a few in their twenties, including George Higgins (Willy’s son) and the remainder were “old men” in their thirties.

The Jack O’Sullivan Trophy winning team was also a good blend of youth and experience, and included such old hands as Norman Farrell and Luke Glynn; not-so-old but also experienced Padraic Lyons (whose father, Pat, was another of the 1970s contingent who kept the club going) and Bob Reilly (Jimmy’s son); and again George Higgins. Incidentally, one of Luke’s teaching colleagues in the Presentation College, Sean Bohan, played on the defeated Carrick-on- Shannon team in the final of that competition. The club’s well-established Junior policy really paid dividends in the other competitions won by the Club.

When it won the Connacht Final of the Senior Cup – the Blue Riband of inter-club competitions – Athenry was represented by local lads Michael Lane (son of Tom) and Presentation College student Barry Donoghue, and three others all aged under 30. This team was narrowly defeated in the All-Ireland semi-final by Tramore Golf Club. The club’s youth (under-21) team, of which Barry was also a member, went one better by adding the All lreland title to its Connacht victory.

The success this year, however, was not all about teams – nor was it all about men and boys.

Presentation College student Fiona Carroll, from Derrydonnel, saw her magnificent ability and competitive temperament recognised by being selected to represent Connacht in the Girls Interprovincial Championships.

This team was the first ever Connacht team to win this championship. Her performance in this event, plus her excellent results in the regional girls championships, saw her rewarded by being selected to represent Ireland in the international Girls championship, and to play with the big names of Irish amateur women’s golf as part of the Connacht Ladies team. This was a magnificent achievement in itself, but becomes even more when you realise that Fiona is eligible to play in Girls (under 18) championships for another two years!

Barry Donoghue joined the growing number of club members to represent Connacht at Boys (under 18) level. In the Interprovincial series of matches, Barry’s record was unsurpassed in that he won all six of the matches in which he played. This performance, allied to his showing in the Senior Cup, means that it cannot be long before he too is selected on an Ireland team. (Club member Mike Mulryan has already represented Ireland at under-18 and under-21 level.) Barry, too, is eligible to play in Boys championships for another two years.

Club Captain Rory McCarthy would have been delighted to know in advance that he would receive one trophy during his year of office. To even dream that he would pick up six, including an All-Ireland, would have been considered lunacy of the highest order. But he did, and he is not alone in his pride. The people of 1977 are justifiably ecstatic, and are now wondering where can it go from here. This truly is a year to remember, and brings justifiable pride to all club members. Equally it is something that all of Athenry can be proud of.

Further information on the club can be seen at www.athenrygolfclub.net

Sean Pomphrett is Chairman of Athenry Golf Club

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About this record

Written by Sean Pomphrett

Published here 31 Dec 2023 and originally published Christmas 2004

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