Cork Golf: John McSweeney lifts Muskerry title while Paula Walsh secures Munster crown

Niall O'Shea on a busy week of top-quality local golf action
Cork Golf: John McSweeney lifts Muskerry title while Paula Walsh secures Munster crown

John McSweeney won the Muskerry Junior Scratch Trophy for the third time. Picture: Niall O'Shea 

JOHN McSWEENEY beat all in front of him in Muskerry last weekend, and in doing so he won the Muskerry Junior Scratch Trophy.

The victory was John’s third, an amazing achievement in Cork’s toughest competition. The Muskerry member first won the competition 20 years ago in 2003, and he added a second win two years ago in 2021.

A 2&1 win over fellow Muskerry member Jack Kelleher on Sunday afternoon gave John his third win in the only six-round matchplay event in the junior matchplay range.

McSweeney was one of 64 matchplay competitors to make it through from the qualifier held in March. Six rounds of matchplay competition took place over three days from Friday, and just to make things a little more difficult, an early morning frost meant that play was delayed by nearly an hour.

That had a knock-on effect during the day and the final second-round match only got off the first tee at 6pm on Friday. Unlike the Masters, everyone finished the second round on Friday and that left just 16 golfers heading into Saturday’s two rounds.

After another two rounds on Saturday, there were just four golfers remaining. On Sunday morning, McSweeney faced Fota’s Ben O’Connell while Jack Kelleher from the home club took on Philip Quinn from Douglas. It was the two home club members who made it through to the sixth round.

The standard of golf in the final was very impressive, and considering that both golfers had played five rounds since Friday it was clear that both were aiming for the win. Kelleher was the first to go ahead, he hit his tee shot on the par four 2nd hole to a few inches to eagle the hole and go one up. McSweeney came back quickly and he was two up after the par three 6th. Kelleher fought back to level the match after the 12th but McSweeney took the lead again on the 14th. John doubled his lead on the 16th to heap pressure on his opponent and when he halved the 17th that was enough to secure the win.


McSweeney was one of over 230 golfers who took part in the two days of qualifying, and he shot a 63 to comfortably qualify for the top 64. He had a mixed journey, he finished some matches early but he was taken to the 20th before winning one of his matches on Saturday. He becomes just the second golfer to win the prestigious title three times, and the first Muskerry member to do it. McSweeney will now look to match Bantry’s Donal McCarthy who won on four occasions in the 1980s.

Monkstown was a busy spot last week, the course was in great condition as it hosted the Women’s Senior and Junior Championships. There was great excitement when Monkstown golfer Una Hegarty won the Munster Junior title. Hegarty lead by one shot after the opening round but Ballybunion’s Noirin Hitchin tied Hegarty for the lead after the second round. A sudden death play-off followed and it wasn’t until the 21st that the Monkstown golfer secured the win.

Paula Walsh, Munster women's champion 2023.
Paula Walsh, Munster women's champion 2023.

Doneraile’s Paula Walsh claimed her second Munster Women’s Senior Amateur Open Championship after a thrilling playoff win. Walsh shot a 69 in the 18-hole event to hold off the challenge of Lisa Cullen, Aideen Walsh and Lauren Kelly who all finished just one stroke behind.

The Corkonian, who also won this title in 2017, was level par for her front nine and despite birding the 11th she dropped back to level again before the crucial birdie on the last. This victory is also a huge early season boost for Walsh’s claims in the Bridgestone Order of Merit. After securing the silverware in Monkstown, Walsh is excited about what lies ahead for the rest of 2023.

“I’m delighted to win. It’s a great win and my second time winning the Munster Championship,” said Walsh. 

“It’s good to get off started in the Order of Merit, the first championship, and I’m looking forward to playing in the rest of them.”

The West of Ireland took place over the weekend, marking the start of the Golf Ireland Championship season. There was a strong Cork presence, boosted by three golfers who made it through. David Howard, Charlie Flavin and Sean Deasy all made it through to the championship. Howard was one of seven Cork golfers to make it through the final Strokeplay round but unfortunately, nobody made it into the top 16 to get to the matchplay stage. The next championship on the schedule is the Munster Mens Amateur Open which takes place over the May weekend. It will mark the 100 anniversary of the launch of the Cork Scratch Cup.

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