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Conlons clinch Winter League title

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Father and son blitz through the last nine in an exciting finish to the SJM Catering Winter League

Amid the highest-scoring Winter League final ever, hospital Frank Conlon stood tallest and signalled a remarkable comeback tour with an impressive victory in partnership with his son Ronnie last Sunday.

Strandhill Golf Club missed Frank’s presence over the past few years, unhealthy and after constant invitations back, malady he finally made his return at the start of the year – no longer content was he to read the reports of the Winter League in the paper as he did every week.

Instead, he made the headlines last Sunday with some remarkable golf in tricky windy conditions, and after an impressive duel over the front nine with first round leaders, Colm Kilbride/Philip Moriarty, the Conlons pulled away on the back nine, even being able to afford a loss at the 18th hole – their only loss in the course of the two rounds.

The biggest charges of the day came from Dessie Timbs/Noel Tivnan and the Basquilles – Declan and Tommy – who both produced impressive runs in the middle of their rounds but in the end fell short of mounting a serious challenge.

Indeed, things looked to be building towards an incredible shoot-out between the young pairing, Moriarty/Kilbride, and the more experienced Conlons. Both sides got to the fifth hole three up for their respective rounds. That kept Moriarty/Kilbride three ahead, but wins from Ronnie at the sixth and seventh, and another for Frank at the 14th, left the gap at one.

Both sides failed to win the 15th, but turning for the second nine the Conlons grabbed hold of the initiative when Frank scored five wins in a row – the 12th, 13th, eighth, ninth and 10th.

Kilbride/Moriarty, meanwhile, were left standing still, only managing to record six halves in a row, and when they lost the 16th their challenge effectively was over.

Frank Keaney/Denis O’Sullivan deservedly finished second in the end, recording 10 wins and no losses to take their tally to 17 up – putting them ahead of both the Basquilles and Timbs/Tivnan on the countback.

For the Basquilles, a brilliant start was halted only by losing the 15th, after which they still managed to keep their run going with four wins on the back nine.

But Tivnan/Timbs, who were on a marvellous run, reaching the 17th tee 10 up for their round, might just have ramped up the pressure a little further had they not lost the 17th and then failed to win the last.

Still, it was a great performance by the pair, with Timbs birdying each of the first three holes and throwing another into the mix on the eighth. Tivnan had provided able support with crucial wins at the fourth, sixth and 12th, by which point they were right in the mix – 15 up and only two behind the then-leaders Moriarty/Kilbride.

The Kilcullens – Michael and Chris – recovered magnificently from a stuttering start to take fifth place on 16 up, in a round which included four wins in a row from the fourth and another three on the trot from the 11th. Indeed, they too might wonder what would have been if they were able to mount more of a charge over the last six holes, but they had to settle for four halves, a win and a loss for their final total.

The Rooneys – Mark and Declan – once again served notice of what a strong Winter League team they are by bulldozing their way into the top-10 with an 11up second round performance that even included a loss on the 10th holes – their 15th of the day. Indeed, the pair were 10 up for their first 13 holes – 14 up overall – and at that point were coming into the reckoning – only three behind the leaders. To be able to contend after a potentially destructive first round was the hallmark of champions.

Con Hegarty/Norman Ashe also regained their form of the playoffs with an 11up showing on day two, leaving them in eighth place overall by virtue of a better back 18 than Stanley Harte/Frank Gannon.

The latter’s performance over the last nine holes – particularly that of Stanley Harte – is worth a mention as the pair were a staggering eight up for the final nine.

The final placing went to Martin Nicholsen/Brian O’Rourke, who also finished 15 up after a 10up second round last Sunday.

It was a disappointing day, meanwhile, for three stalwart pairings who were in contention. Colin Walsh/Mark Wehrly endured a disastrous middle portion of their round, and despite three straight wins in the last three holes they finished just outside the top-10, six up for the day and 14up overall.

The same went for Gerry Kilbride/David Lindsay, who could only manage 1up on the back nine after a promising start, leaving them 14up overall and five up for the day.  Last year’s winners, Ken Carr/Tony Mannion, seemed to have left themselves with too much to do also, finishing six up for their second round and 13up overall.

In the non-qualifiers, meanwhile, Cedric Rousillhe/Ruairi Fox narrowly lost out on a countback of cards to Jim Coyne/Pat Fenton. The Coxes – Mickey and Paul – and the Foxes – Gerry and Ciaran – also finished six up but their back-nine scores kept them out of the prizes in the end.

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