A first All-Ireland title for Thurles Golf Club from twenty five years ago recalled

Noel Dundon

Reporter:

Noel Dundon

Email:

nd@tipperarystar.ie

The Thurles Golf Club team which won the Jimmy Bruen 25 years ago

The Thurles Golf Club team which won the Jimmy Bruen 25 years ago

The Jimmy Bruen Trophy was a long time coming but when it did it opened the floodgates

Photo Caption: The winning team: Back row: Bob Ryan, Paney Connors (RIP), Evan Long, John Hayes, Sean Whelan, Harry Mulhaire, Michael Hayes, Seamus Troy, Birdie Ryan, JJ Maher (RIP), Paddy Stakelum, Ray Shannon, PJ Broderick, Jerry Stakelum (Selector), Joe Irwin, TJ Semple.
Front: John O'Leary (Bulmers), Pat Stokes (President TGC), John Nolan (Team Manager), Jim Finn (Club Captain), Matt Cronin, Pat Fennelly.

It was a long time coming but when Thurles Golf Club eventually won their first All-Ireland title in 1996, it opened the flood gates for further success at a variety of different levels.


It's a quarter of a century now since that first Jimmy Bruen title - the trophy is named after Bruen who was an Irish amateur golfer who won the 1946 Amateur Championship and was in the British Walker Cup team in 1938, 1949 and 1951. He was generally regarded as one of Ireland's leading amateur golfers and the clubs from all over Ireland have sought to win the prestigious silverware.


So, when Thurles' chance finally came in 1996 it heralded great celebrations at Turtulla with selectors John Nolan and Jerry Stakelum having delivered the big one.


Now the team members enjoyed some great drives off the tee box en-route to winning the All-Ireland, but none were as sweet as the drive from the Horse and Jockey to Turtulla when Thurles Golf Club was en-fete to honour the history makers. The celebrations went on for some time and the team was even accorded a Civic Reception by Thurles Town Council in recognition of their achievements - the greatest honour the town can bestow on any individual or group.


The remarkable thing about the Thurles success which came after seven previous attempts - was that there were five members of the team under the age of 20, John and Michael Hayes, Evan Long, Bob Ryan and Sean Whelan. And while the experience of the seasoned golfers was a real steadying influence, the infusion of youth and lack of baggage was a real bonus, and a tribute to the selectors who decided to give youth its fling.


The team members started training for the event early in the season knowing that they were good enough to achieve their ultimate goal if they were properly prepared - they had been in winning positions before but failed to see it out due, in the main, to misfortune and lack of winning experience.


Manager John Nolan and Selector Jerry Stakelum knew they had a team of real potential, but they also knew that they would need a lot of work to get them into shape - great credit is due to the two men for their outstanding contribution to the success they orchestrated.


While there were victories over Youghal, Cahir Park, West Waterford, Ceann Sibeal Dingle and East Cork en-route to winning the Munster crown - the final and semi-finals were played on the same day and resulted in a gruelling 36 hole marathon - the toughest match of all was against neighbour Templemore. It proved to be an outstanding contest and it really steeled the Thurles lads for the challenges which would follow.


Loughrea were accounted for in the All-Ireland semi-final and then it was a case of crossing clubs with Donabate Golf Club in the final - a day which turned out to be a glorious one for Thurles when a huge attendance made their way to Tramore for the match.


The Thurles lads had been well prepared - they even closed the 10th and 11th holes in the Thurles course for a time to allow for exclusive training for the team members, and they stayed in Tramore for a week beforehand to get plenty of experience of the course.


The day is long remembered in Thurles and four of the seventeen team members - Seamus Troy, Joe Irwin, TJ Maher and Ray Shannon - were also on the Bruen trophy winning side of 2001 to add a second All-Ireland medal to their collection.
Thurles Golf Club members have gone on to win six All-Ireland titles in different grades, but it was the men of September '96 who showed them the way.