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Winter Leagues


Winter League preview - Day 5 - Group D

Posted on 12 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.)

Finally we have Group D, the true masters of efficiency in the Winter Leagues! They not only get to sleep-in a little longer, but they also get their very own freshly trampled-on greens. Ahhhh, the joys of being fashionably late... there's nothing like starting your game with a side of divots and a sprinkle of despair. Well, at least they can take solace in knowing they're rocking the bedhead look better than anyone else out there!!

Barbarians: (Barry Gorey -2, Barbara Furlong -9, Tommy Coogan -13 & Dora Keane -13; combined handicap: -37)
The Barbarians are making their third consecutive appearance, with none of the quartet being axed, the team remain unchanged since their debut in 2022. The team consists of former C.P.M. man Barry Gorey, the 2007 Dublin Gents Inter Matchplay Champion and a regular for Dublin at Inter County level. Barry is joined by 2021 Dublin Ladies Inter Matchplay Champion and fellow Dublin Inter County player Barbara Furlong. Barbara is joined by her long-time teammate Tommy Coogan, having previously played together with The Hatters, Last Man Standing, The Last Legs and The Explorers. Tommy is no stranger to team success and was part of the team which won the All Ireland Team Event in Fermoy in 2003. Last, but by no means least, is Dora Keane, a Winter League veteran and 2015 Dublin Ladies Junior Strokeplay winner. Despite failing to get out of their group last time around, these hardened warriors will be hoping to re-discover the steel they showed in 2022, when they reached the final, agonisingly losing in a play-off against Onwards and Upwards. All four members of this team have proved they can deliver on the biggest of battlefields and with a perfect combination of experience and handicap, who's to say they won't leave multiple casualties in their wake this time around?

Coogan's Bluff: (Lennon Blake -1, Billy Blake -3, Alan Doyle -8 & Barbara Coogan -13; combined handicap: -25)
The name' Coogan's Bluff' first appeared in the Winter Leagues about ten years ago, with their defining moment coming in 2015 when they were crowned Winter League champions. In 2018 the team became 'Christy's Gang' and another name change followed in 2019 when they became the 'Rhinos'. However, when Barbara Coogan exited the Rhinos last year, she formed her own team and the 'Coogan's Bluff' name was resurrected. It was almost a dream start for Coogan's Bluff 2.0 when they reached the final in their debut season, losing out to Paddy's Pirates in the final. The deck remains unchanged for the coming campaign, starting with the aforementioned 2015 Winter League winner Barbara Coogan, who was part of Lucan's All Ireland Team Event winning side in 2003. Next up is current Dublin Gents Junior Matchplay champion Alan Doyle, himself a former Winter League winner with Seve's Sockets in 2017. The team is rounded out by a father and son duo, father Billy Blake, like teammates Alan and Barbara, is also a former Winter League winner following victory with the Rockers in 2014. Completing the full house is Billy's son Lennon Blake, a player who many would consider to be the ace in the pack. The twenty-one-year-old has gone from strength to strength since leaving the juvenile ranks and shows no signs of stopping. In their debut season Coogan's Bluff (2.0) showed that when the ante is raised and the chips are down, they won't fold under the pressure. Can they raise their game and go all the way this year? You bet!

Paddy's Pirates: (Paddy Croke -4, Paddy Blake -7, Kathleen Croke -8 & Trish Anderson -16; combined handicap: -35)
X certainly marked the spot for Paddy's Pirates, who picked up valuable treasure in the form of the Winter League trophy last year. The good ship is now sailing into its seventh campaign, and while the crew has remained fairly consistent, last year's champions do see one change, with Anthony 'Rudy' Keegan having walked the plank. Rudy's absence sees the return of an old shipmate in the form of 2017 Leinster Junior Ladies Strokeplay winner, Trish Anderson, who featured for the team every year barring 2023. Trish is joined by swashbuckling captain Paddy Croke, the 1999 Dublin Inter Gents Matchplay champion is a fierce competitor and the two-time Winter League winner (2004 & 2023) is a player that not many will look forward to battling. Kathleen Croke, 2009 and 2019 Leinster Inter Ladies Strokeplay winner, makes her third appearance for Paddy's Pirates since joining from the Golden Oldies, with whom she also won the Winter Leagues in 2013. The anchor-man of the team is Paddy Blake, the third member of the team to have won the Winter Leagues with two different teams, having tasted success with 'Blake's 4' in 2006. On recent performances and with a raft of previous winner's medals aboard, it would be hard to argue against seeing Captain Paddy raising the skull and crossbones of the Jolly Roger once again this year, however, as defending champions there'll be plenty of teams out to ensure they end up both shipwrecked and marooned!

Price's Penguins: (Liam Price -3, Tracey Smith -6, John Murphy -9 & Mark Hegarty -16; combined handicap: -34)
One of the Winter Leagues' two new teams this season is Price's Penguins, a team which features one debutant, one player returning to the Winter Leagues after a lengthy absence and two Winter League regulars, hoping to have found a new huddle amongst the Penguins. First up is former Onwards and Upwards player John Murphy, who was a key part of the team which triumphed in the 2022 Winter Leagues. With Onward and Upwards not entering this year, Price's Penguins have done well to pick up this former Emperor. The team can also boast another former Winter League winner in 2019 & 2022 Dublin Ladies Inter Matchplay champion Tracy Smith, who was part of the Rockers side who prevailed in 2014. King of the mini-colony is Liam Price, who as far as I can work out, is making his first appearance in the Winter Leagues since appearing as a substitute for brother Johnny on the Dream Team in 2013. The final player is debutant and newcomer to the club, Mark Hegarty, who'll be the perfect man to total up the team's points! Will the newcomers ruffle some feathers and pi..pi..pick up enough points to make the latter stages or will they waddle away with their chinstraps between their legs?

Tractormen: (Philo Condron -4, Dave Hayden II -6, Christian O'Reilly -9 & Jay Condron -10; combined handicap: -29)
Winter League regulars The Tractormen make their return after an enforced one-year fallow. Beginning life as the Fridge Magnets, before changing their name to the Tractormen as a nod to Jemmers Condron and Dave Hayden Snr., the line-up has changed every year since losing to the Philipos in the 2016 final. This year is no exception with Michael Byrne and Eric Doyle dropping out, which will see the return of 2017 Dublin Junior Gents Matchplay winner Jay Condron. Jay is joined by Winter League newcomer Christian O'Reilly, who picked up the Junior Grade prize in this year's DCB John Smith Scratch Cup and his vast experience on the Scratch Cup circuit should stand him in good stead, with the need to quickly adapt to the Winter League course. They will join team matriarch, four-time Dublin champion, two-time Leinster champion and all-around Lucan legend Philo Condron. Making up the foursome is 2008 Dublin Inter Strokeplay, 2010 Leinster Inter Strokeplay and 2018 Dublin Inter Matchplay winner Dave Hayden II, who'll be hoping his pitch and putt is better than his writing! The Tractormen haven't cultivated enough points to get passed the group stages since 2018, finishing bottom of their group last time around. If they can play to their ability and overcome their low combined handicap, then they may just plough through all that stands before them and avoid being put out to pasture once again.

Group D prediction:
Of all the winter League groups, this one is the group of death and the most difficult one for any team to qualify from. Not only does the group contain last year's winners and runners-up, it also contains the runners-up from the 2022 season. With such formidable teams in the group, I struggle to see Price's Penguins getting through the opening stages in their debut season. With the second-lowest combined handicap in the group, the Tractormen may find the quality of the opposition just too tough to overcome. This leaves a scrap between three teams for just two places, similar to the situation last season when Coogan's Bluff and Paddy's Pirates finished comfortably ahead of the Barbarians. With very little change in team personnel or handicaps, I wouldn't bet against the same outcome this time around.
Going through: Coogan's Bluff & Paddy's Pirates. Going out: Barbarians, Price's Penguins & Tractormen.

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