The Irish horseshoe pitching team who beat the British team from Leeds and Luton. Back row: Dave McDonagh (Galway), Martin Doherty, Hughie Duffy (Donegal), John Giltrap (Wexford), Christy Doyle (Kildare), Larry Dunne (Laois), Mick Doyle (Kildare), Michael McLaughlin (Donegal). Front row: Paddy Byrne (Kildare), Kevin Flaherty (Galway), Liam Bond, Paddy Connors (Wexford), Peter McLaughlin (Donegal), Tom Connors (Wexford).
Tegral Sportsfield Athy, by kind permission of Tegral Building Products, was the venue for four International Horseshoe Pitching Competitions recently.
The Leeds and Luton pitchers arrived in Athy on Friday morning and had time to get warmed up before the first game-an Open Pairs Competition at 6:30 that evening.
There was a marvellous turnout of pitchers in Athy for the weekend, with a bus load from Donegal, a group from Galway and of course a big contingent from Wexford as well as the local pitchers. The local club Goulyduff was the host for these games over the weekend. They were gratefully supported by the Athy Municipal District Council.
The Open Pairs on the Friday evening were brilliant with marvellous pitching all the way to the final, where there were three local lads with the two pairs, Paddy Byrne, PJ Delaney and Christy Doyle, all Goulyduff, and Dan Harkin from Donegal. The two pairs were evenly matched up to the three quarter stage, when Dan Harkin and Christy Doyle got a grip on the game and went on to win 21/18.
On Saturday the 25th the first game was the International team event between a Leeds-Luton selection and the Irish Team selected from Counties Kildare, Laois, Galway, Donegal and Wexford. The Irish boys had a good win taking six of the seven sets to retain the team event title.
In Division One there was tremendous pitching, the cream of the crop was in this one, with five previous International Singles winners taking part and all of them pitching very well on the day. Tom Connors from the Woodsmen Club Bunclody was consistent in all his games and got through to the final. There he met local Paddy Byrne. Paddy had been pitching well in all his games up to the final, but in the final against Tom Connors he never got going, with the result Tom had a rather easy win 21/14, to get his name on the cup for the first time.
In Division Two there was some great pitching. Two of the top pitchers in this Division, Mick Doyle Goulyduff and Dan Harkin, Innishowen, Donegal worked their way through the rounds, not pitching brilliantly, but pitching well enough, both got to the final.
The final was expected to be close, but this never happened as Mick Doyle didn't get into his stride as he had done in the earlier rounds, with the result, Dan Harkin consistenly won, pulling up to take the Division Two International Singles for 2019.
International Pairs Competition
In Division One, again, there was great pitching, locals Paddy Byrne and Denis Ryan were easing their way through the first few rounds. In the semi final they came up against two Wexford men, John Giltrap and singles winner Tom Connors. This was a humdinger of a game with both pairs giving it everything. Byrne and Ryan got a bit of a grip on the game and led 18/13 and just when it loked like they had the game in the bag, back came Connors and Giltrap and levelled it at twenty all, only for Connors to make a mistake and leave Ryan room to take the last ace and make it through to the final 21/20.
The other semi final was equally as dramatic between Paddy Connors and partner Phil Mahon, and Brendan Earle and partner Chris McDonald (all from Wexford). This was tit for tat all the way to the finish with Paddy Connors taking the last ace to win this one 21/20 and reach the final.
The final was close enough with both pairs giving it a real go. Paddy Connors was the pick of the four pitchers, he pitched great shoes throughout the game and with some help from Phil Mahon they came out on top over Byrne and Ryan, 21/18 to take the International Pairs Shield for 2019.
In Division Two again there was great games. In one semi final Mick Doyle and partner Seán Ó'Connor had to pull out all the stops to get over Leeds pair, John Casserley and Liam Loftus. In the other semi final Tadhg Conneeley and Seán Geoghegan from Galway had a real battle with the Luton lads John Cleary and his nephew Joe Cleary, before coming out on top by a few aces to reach the final. The final was even up to the three quarter stage when Mick Doyle and Seán Ó'Connor from the Goulyduff Club pulled away to take the Division Two title 21/16 over the two Galway players.
Paddy Connors, John Giltrap, Liam Bond and Tom Connors all from Wexford. Kevin Flaherty and Dave McDonagh (Galway). Michael McLoughlin, Hughie Duffy, Peter McLaughlin and Martin Doherty all from Donegal. Larry Dunne (Laois), Paddy Byrne, Mick Doyle and Christy Doyle (Kildare).
The presentation of prizes was made at a function on the Sunday night in the Clanard Court Hotel, Athy.
The chairman of HPAI, Denis Ryan presented the prizes, ably assisted by vice chairman, Liam Bond and HPAI treasurer, Jim Kelly.
A special presentation was made to Leeds/Luton chairman John Casserley by the HPAI chairman as a momento of their visit to Ireland. In return, Leeds/Luton secretary Jim Henry presented Denis Ryan with a lovely piece of crystal on behalf of the visiting group. A good night and a marvellous weekend was had by all.
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