KINSALE’S victorious Jimmy Bruen Shield manager John O’Neill hopes that the club’s first All-Ireland golf title can prove to the stepping stone for future success.
A maiden green pennant in the 106-year history of Kinsale was achieved as they beat Hermitage of Dublin to claim the Bruen at Thurles. Paul Shanahan was the hero as he sank the eight-foot putt at the first extra hole to give himself and Rhys Reynolds victory in their decisive match, with Kinsale winning 3-2 overall.
The victory capped a marvellous year for the club, all the more impressive considering that the Bruen Munster win over Nenagh in July was, as O’Neill says, ‘the first pennant we ever put on the wall’.
In addition to the Bruen, there was also provincial glory in the Barton Shield while their Irish Junior Cup and boys’ teams also reached Munster finals and one of its brightest products, John Murphy, was victorious in the St Andrews Links Trophy.
However, as O’Neill says, it took quite a while to become an overnight success.
‘This has taken five years’ work,’ he says.
‘We started off in charge of the Pierce Purcell Shield team in 2013, myself and Pat Higgins, and a couple of the lads from that team were on the Bruen panel.
‘It was about gradually building and learning from our mistakes. We got to the Munster semi-final of the Purcell in 2015, something we had never done before, and it was a good experience but it showed what we needed to do.’
After that, the pair took charge of the Bruen side. Previously, foursomes pairings had to have a maximum combined handicap of 17 but a notable change for this year was a reduction to 15.
‘The approach we took was that the change might suit us,’ O’Neill says.
‘We had a big panel, a lot of fellas competitive at that level and it’s about finding the right pairings.
‘The youngest we had was 13 and then the oldest would have been in their 60s, I think overall we had about 22 players on the panel with guys coming and going.
‘There’s a huge level of organisation in it.
We were involved in a spring league with Macroom, Lee Valley, Kinsale and Bantry Bay, which was very beneficial as you got guys used to playing foursomes.
‘We would meet once a week and then play at the weekends too. It’s a big commitment.’
That stood to them in the final, though it was nervy as Shanahan and Reynolds had been three up with three to play only to be hauled in before winning the 19th hole.
‘That’s the thing about it, you’re out there on your own,’ O’Neill says.
‘There’s no hiding place, like there would be in hurling or football, where your team-mates can cover you.
‘That match should have been over an hour previously, but that’s the way of it, they got the job done in the end.
‘There was a huge crowd there, it was great for the club. Two or three from the team will go on now to play senior cup and that’s what it’s all about, improving the whole time.
‘You only get out of it what you put into it.’