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Winter Leagues


Winter League preview - Day 4 - Group C

Posted on 11 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.)

Now we come to Group C, the designated "almost-sane" zone! Here, you'll find a bunch of folks who seem like they have their heads screwed on right. As this is the first of two five-team groups, these lucky folks get an extra week of games! Can you imagine the envy from the poor souls in groups A and B, who will no doubt be hoping the heavens open that week!

Dream Team: (Johnny Price -2, Paul County -3, Michael Byrne -4 & Roisin Harpur -11; combined handicap: -20)
The illustrious moniker of 'Dream Team' is probably the most well-known team name in Lucan Winter League history. They have a nightmarishly good record, which includes triumphant victories in 2005 and 2012, as well as commendable second-place finishes in 2002 and 2010. However, the Dream Team of today experienced an extensive overhaul in 2022 and is now scarcely recognisable compared to its illustrious counterparts from the years 2002 through to 2012. Remarkably, 1992 Dublin Gents Matchplay and 1998 Dublin Gents Strokeplay winner Johnny Price stands as the sole survivor from the esteemed "classic line-up". The Legend is joined by Paul County, who has moved into the Senior ranks this year, after winning the Portmarnock Inter Scratch Cup and also reaching the Dublin Inter Matchplay final. A big part of last year's success, Michael Byrne, returns in 2024 for his second appearance for the Dream Team, having debuted with the Tractormen in 2022. The quartet is completed by current Lucan Ladies Class 2 Club Strokeplay champion, Roisin Harpur, who makes her third consecutive appearance for the team. Since the overhaul in 2022, the team has been rejuvenated, reaching the Quarter Finals in 2022 and the Semi Finals in 2023. It appears that after a number of years as slumbering giants, their recent reawakening indicates they may just be a force to be reckoned with once again. However, with comfortably the lowest combined team handicap of any team in this year's Winter Leagues, they will have to be at their very best each week to ensure their dreams don't quickly turn into nightmares.

Keeghams: (Steven Keegan -3, Alex Keegan -7, Stephen Needham -9 & Tracy Needham -10; combined handicap: -29)
The Keeghams are a relatively new team to the Winter Leagues, having made their debut in the event only last season. It was a disappointing start for the newly fledged team, as despite not being ham-mered in any of their matches, they failed to get out of their group. That outcome was somewhat of a surprise given the pedigree of two of the team members, each of whom have multiple winners medals. Steven Keegan, 2007 Lucan Scratch Cup Winner, has tasted Winter League success on no fewer than five previous occasions, the most of any player in this year's tournament, with his first win coming in 2001, it was followed with four more wins in 2007, 2011, 2018 and 2019 as part of the legendry Diggers side. The 2018 Dublin Gents Junior Strokeplay champion Stephen Needham, was apart of the same Diggers teams as Steven, giving him a total of four wins in this event, making him the second most successful Winter League player in this year's tournament. Alarmingly, with Stephen still somehow clinging on to a handicap of -9, he'll prove a fore-midable opponent for anyone. Tracy Needham is the third member of the team and will be looking forward to the new season, having finally achieved a long-awaited competition win in Lucan this past June, ending a remarkable 23-year wait between wins! The final member of the team is the youngest player in this year's event and a player with plenty of talent in Alex Keegan, who won the 2019 Dublin Boys 10-13 Strokeplay title. With a wealth of experience and some fresh faces, the Keeghams look to be a very strong team and if things go their way Steven may be putting up the bunting for a victory party come the end of February.

Philipos: (David Lee -4, Fergal Power -6, Sandra Keogh -9 & Tess Donovan -19; combined handicap: -38)
Another team with a rich Winter League heritage are the Philipos, having emerged victorious in 2016 after defeating the Fridge Magnets in a thrilling final. Since then, the team have lost two of their regular members in Frank Loakman who last featured in 2022 and Philip Sweeney who hasn't featured since the 2019 season, despite the latter, the team retains the Philipos epithet. Philling the void left by these two players are the ultra-reliable Fergal Power, who claimed the Lucan President's Prize in 2021, alongside the 2022 and 2023 Ladies Remembrance winner Tess Donovan, herself a Winter League winner in 2011. Tess joined the team in 2023 following the disbandment of the Morris Minors. Back-to-back Dublin Inter Matchplay winner (2019 & 2021) David Lee returns again, having been a stalwart of the side for the best part of a decade. The final member of the quartet has also been the backbone of the team during the past decade, 2016 Leinster and 2023 Dublin Inter Ladies Strokeplay champion, Sandra Keogh. Despite the team being blessed with some of the toughest competitors in the club, the Philipos have been phliminated at the quarter-final stage in four of the past five events, while failing to get out of the group on the other occasion. If they can play to the best of their ability and adopt the never-say-die phil-osophy of 2016, maybe, just maybe, they can once again phil the Winter League cup.

Rhinos: (Noel Ryan -5, Seamus Harpur -9, Michael O'Gorman -10 & Evelyn O'Gorman -12; combined handicap: -36)
The Rhinos began Winter League life in 2015, under the guise of Coogan's Bluff, incredibly winning the Winter League title in their very first attempt (not to be confused with the new Coogan's Bluff team headed by Barbara Coogan). The team remained unchanged for five consecutive seasons until 2022 when Gary Ryan replaced Christopher Byrne. Since then, another change followed in 2023 when Michael Morris replaced Barbara Coogan. 2024 sees two further alterations, the first of those changes sees Seamus Harpur replace Gary Ryan, having made his Winter League debut last season with Flynn's Flyers. The second change sees 2000 and 2002 Winter League winner Michael O'Gorman replace former Morris Minor teammate Michael Morris. These two new faces join team ever-present Noel Ryan, who after a number of years as Competition Secretary will relish the opportunity to fully enjoy the competitive side of the Winter Leagues once more. The final member of the side is 2015 Dublin Ladies Inter Strokeplay winner, Evelyn O'Gorman, who has also been an omnipresent member of the side. When a team starts off with a win, they need to develop a thick skin as other teams actively try to hunt them down. Unfortunately for the Rhinos, success has been an endangered species since their victory, with the team having failed to get out of the group on every occasion since their win. With a couple of new faces this season, maybe they have what it takes to make a good charge at the title.

Rooney's Rogues: (Tony McDonnell -7, Trish Tully -15, Hugh Rooney -16 & Maria Rooney -19; combined handicap: -57)
After a brief re-name to 'Macs' last season, the 'Rooney's Rogues' team name makes a return for the 2024 campaign. The nucleus of this band of rapscallions has appeared under various guises throughout the years, despite their limited successes so far, a noteworthy highlight includes their quarter-final appearance in 2020. The chief scoundrel of the team Maria Rooney has previously been on a winning Winter League team in 2003 and enjoyed her most successful year on the course in 2023, during which time she picked up six club prizes. Fellow miscreant Trish Tully has a wealth of experience and an intimate knowledge of every nook and cranny of the Winter League course, which should stand her in good stead. The third ne'er-do-well is another with a wealth of Winter League experience in Tony McDonnell, a very capable performer and Winter League runner-up on three separate occasions. The final vagabond of the bunch is Hugh Rooney, who ended a wait of more than a quarter of a century, when he picked up a club prize in December 2023. Although they are one of the most experienced teams in this year's tournament, it is difficult to envision a different result from what we are accustomed to witnessing. However, they do have the second highest handicap in the tournament and with determination and hard work, reaching the latter stages isn't unrealistic.

Group C prediction:
So, to Group C and this is where it gets really tricky for me, as instead of picking just two teams to go out, I need to select three who will bite the dust on this occasion. If this was a gross competition, it would be hard to see any winners aside from the Dream Team, however, with comfortably the lowest combined handicap in the competition, I think they may just find the hill too steep to climb. While the Rhinos have brought in two new faces, recent history is not on their side and it may take this team a little longer to gel. I struggle to make a case for Rooney's Rogues escaping from such a tough group, as they rarely make it to the knockout stages and I can't see this year being any different. So, in my humble opinion, the two teams to progress from this group will be the Keeghams, who have a great blend of skill and handicap alongside the Philipos who are blessed with a very well-balanced side and a wealth of experience.
Going through: Keeghams & Philipos. Going out: Dream Team, Rhinos & Rooney's Rogues.

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