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Winter Leagues


Winter League preview - Day 3 - Group B

Posted on 10 Jan '24 by Dave Hayden II


(Disclaimer: Winter League results are only available from the year 2000 onward. So in the same way that Manchester United fans believe that football only began in 1993, as they desperately try to erase 18 of Liverpool's league titles, this preview will ignore the years pre-2000 and focus solely with the period which I will call the "Premier Winter League" era. So please accept my apologies for any omissions.)

Watch as the madcap Group B teams, certifiably bonkers, but not quite as bonkers as those in Group A, stumble onto the course at an ungodly 9:45am! Because clearly, nothing screams "fun" like freezing your backside off on a winter's morning, right?

Flynn's Flyers: (Ted Flynn -4, Val Poleon -7, Catherine Leonard -10 & Rita Dillon -18; combined handicap: -47)
Taxiing to the preview runway first are Flynn's Flyers, a team that remained unchanged for the best part of a decade until two enforced changes seen Rita Dillon and Catherine Leonard miss the flight last time around. While they have both returned for the upcoming campaign, the team will be without Michael Purcell this time around. With Seamus Harpur and Kathleen Grainger stepping in last year, the team winged their way to the semi-finals, before losing out to eventual winners 'Paddy's Pirates'. The first of the prodigal daughters is Catherine Leonard, a former winner of the Winter Leagues in 2001, Catherine previously landed the 2001 Dublin Ladies Junior and 2005 Dublin Ladies Inter Strokeplay titles. The other returnee is Rita Dillon, one of the very few people in the field who can claim to have won the short-lived Summer League. The trainee member of the flight crew is Val Poleon, who hasn't played in Winter Leagues since the entry fee was in pounds, shillings and pence. Finally, we venture into the flight deck, where we find the lowest handicapped player on the team in Ted Flynn, who will be looking to guide his team into the latter stages once again this year. On paper, Flynn's Flyers are a very well-balanced team, making them one of the most promising participants in this year's event, with the potential to soar to great heights. However, unforeseen turbulence and the fear of a crash landing could potentially shake their aspirations.

Knee Knockers: (Sean Dillon -10, Seamus McCormick -15, Helen Dunne -21 & Roma McCormick -21; combined handicap: -67)
The Knee Knockers return to Winter League action for the fifth consecutive event, having started out as 'Power City' in the 2019 season. The name change also coincided with the final knee replacement to the line-up, with the team remaining unchanged since 2022. After finishing bottom of their respective groups in their first three events, they showed signs of improvement last year in finishing third in their group and missing out on the quarter finals by only two points. The team's lowest handicap player is 2007 Dublin Gents Junior Strokeplay winner Sean Dillon, a plumber by trade he's probably more at home with threaded joints than knee joints. Sean is joined by the husband-and-wife duo of Seamus and Roma McCormick, and who needs a pitch and putt coach when you have a spouse who can lovingly highlight all the issues with your swing? The final leg of the team is Helen Dunne, who is the newest member of the crew, having previously appeared for 'Helen's Heroes' and 'Ward's Warblers', clearly Helen is a woman who kneeds alliteration in her life! Having failed to reach the knock-out stages in any of their five attempts, it's hard to make a case for them reaching the business end this year either. However, with the highest combined handicap of any team in the entire tournament, ten shots more than any other, it would be a kneejerk reaction to completely rule them out.

McCann Cans: (Peter Keogh -7, Brendan Keane -9, Eileen Loakman -13 & Ann McCann -20; combined handicap: -49)
Since their formation as 'Nite Link', the McCann Cans line-up has remained relatively unchanged, with only one alteration in 2018 when Danny Kilduff temporarily replaced Brendan. This level of consistency proved to be extremely rewarding for the quartet in 2020, as they triumphed as Winter League champions, narrowly defeating the formidable Poppys in an exhilarating final. The team consists of serial winner Eileen Loakman, who has amassed more than one hundred club prizes over the years. Joining Eileen is the source of the team's name, Ann McCann. The affable Ann has consistently proven to be a formidable presence in the Winter Leagues throughout the years and is an opponent never to be taken lightly. Next up is the 2023 President's Day Gents champion Peter Keogh, a man whose putting skills are far superior to his driving. The final member of the team is Brendan Keane, who after serving a year as Club Captain will be eager to focus on the competitive side of the game once again. Since their win in 2020, McCann Cans have been a little more like McCanns Can'ts, exiting at the group stages in 2022 and only reaching the quarter-finals last year. Their experience and skill along with their strong team spirit make them a formidable opponent for any team and it would be unwise to underestimate them based solely on their recent form. With a unique blend of skill and the third highest combined handicap in this year's event, it's just possible that once again... the McCanns Can!

Poppys: (Andy Fitzgerald -7, Terry O'Shaughnessy -10, Peter Anderson -13 & Fionna Langan -17; combined handicap: -47)
The Poppys bear the noteworthy distinction of being the team in this year's event which has remained unchanged for the longest duration when compared to the rest of the field, with the same four players now competing for the ninth consecutive season! Despite the foursomes longevity, not all is fragrant in the garden, as despite reaching the final on two occasions, the Poppys have yet to claim the ultimate prize. The first player of the bunch is 2018 Dublin Gents Junior Matchplay champion and current Club Member of the Year, Terry O'Shaughnessy, a fierce competitor who always gives his all. Next up is the ultra-dependable Peter Anderson, who is something of a winter specialist, with ten of his twenty-one club victories coming in either the Winter Leagues or the Turkey competitions. The next flower in the bouquet is 2014 Leinster Ladies Junior Strokeplay winner Fiona Langan, who enjoyed her most successful club season in 2023 when she collected a total of six prizes. Wherever you have flowers, you have pollen and wherever you have pollen, you end up with flying insects. Which takes us nicely to the final member of the team, Andy Fitzgerald, who will lead the team off in the singles each week as he is the team's lowest handicapped player. Since their narrow defeat to McCann's Cans in the 2020 final, the Poppys haven't had much to shout about, as they failed to get out of their group in the next campaign. They did reach the quarter-finals last year, but a bruising 11-1 defeat to Paddy's Pirates can't have done much for their confidence. However, despite a couple of off-colour seasons, the Poppys are simply too good not to bloom again.

Group B prediction:
While still very tricky to predict, Group B looks slightly more straight forward than Group A. The Knee Knockers have a history of making early exits in this tournament, and despite their high handicap, unfortunately I fear this year will be no different. Former winners McCann's Cans haven't quite hit the dizzy heights of their title winning year in recent times and the other teams in this group may prove just too strong. So, I'm backing the Poppys to make their vast experience count, alongside Flynn's Flyers who look very strong despite the low team handicap.
Going through: Flynn's Flyers & Poppys. Going out: Knee Knockers & McCann's Cans.

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