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15 September 2021

BANBRIDGE Golf Club’s Ladies’ Intermediate team are ‘daring to dream’ as they aim for All-Ireland glory later this week.

The squad have qualified for the finals of the AIG Women’s Intermediate Cup, which will be played at Limerick Golf Club from September 16 to 18.

In doing so, they have made history by becoming the first-ever Banbridge ladies’ team to progress to an All-Ireland stage of a competition.

The talented team, captained by Valerie Malcolmson, comprises Karen Curran, Ann Magennis, Mary Longmore, Susan Magennis, and mother-and-daughter duo, Diana and Megan Whan.

The Huntly Road ladies booked their place in the All-Ireland showpiece with a sensational win over Shandon Park Golf Club in the Ulster South Final. 

A total of eight teams have qualified for the knockout stage, and first up for Banbridge is an early morning match against the K-Club on Thursday. 

Speaking to Chronicle Sport, captain Valerie said she was “very proud” of her team.

“We’re a little apprehensive, but excited about the prospects for this week,” she commented. “We’ll be meeting the K-Club in the quarter-final on Thursday, so it will be nice to play against different clubs.

“We’ve had to play five matches to get to this point – in the first round we played Killymoon, then Kilkeel, followed by Ardglass, then Spa, and we defeated Shandon in the final.

“With each round, we ‘dared to dream’ and now we’re through to the All-Ireland Finals! All of the matches were keenly contested and very competitive. The Ulster teams were all very friendly, and everyone enjoyed the good golf that was played.

“Going into the final, we knew that Shandon were a very strong team and, being a bigger club, they would have a lot more ladies to select from. So, it was a superb achievement to win through.”

While some of the Banbridge ladies have played at Limerick before, for others it will be unfamiliar territory.

“We have an official practice round on Wednesday, so we’ll be able to go and see what the course is like,” Valerie explained.

“Our first match is at 8.40am on Thursday morning. To get this far is a wonderful achievement, and any win will be a bonus when we get to Limerick.

“I know the team will give it their best shot and they’ll all be keen to play their best golf.

“If we beat the K-Club on Thursday, we have the possibility of meeting either Newtownstewart or Royal Tara in the semi-final. 

“All the matches will be very close and we’re not going to underestimate any of our opponents.”

After a busy few months on the fairways, the Banbridge team are going into the final in fine form.

“Most of the ladies have been playing golf all summer,” Valerie, a teacher at Abercorn PS, said.

“They’ve all been playing well and their handicaps have been coming down. They are all in good form and have been playing opens at different courses. Many of them played at the past captains’ event at Lough Erne last week.”

The captain added: “Banbridge ladies are a very close knit club, and we know each other very well. 

“All the ladies are very supportive of the team, and the men’s club have also been very supportive. All their good wishes are going with us to Limerick. Mr President (Harry Carson) and his wife (Nora) are coming down to give us some support.

“My husband Paddy is the club chairman, and he’s travelling to support us, as are some of the other husbands.”

Valerie hopes her team can produce a big performance come tee-off time at Ballyclough.

“I’ll be encouraging them to play the golf I know they are capable of and, of course, to enjoy the occasion as much as possible.

“We would be really proud to win such a prestigious trophy; bringing it back to the club would be an excellent feat. Our men’s section are very well known throughout Ireland, so it would be nice to put the Banbridge ladies on the map as well.”

Wishing the team well, Lady Captain Kathleen Smyth said: “Banbridge Golf Club is justifiably proud of its Ladies’ Intermediate Cup team who, having progressed through the initial rounds of the competition against stiff opposition from Killymoon, Kilkeel, Ardglass and Spa golf clubs, recently contested a nail-biting regional final to overcome Shandon Park Golf Club and emerge as Ulster South Area winners.  

“This success has earned them the right to take their place on the national stage when, for the first time in the history of the club, a ladies’ team will compete in the All-Ireland inter-club competition finals.

“Captained by Valerie Malcolmson, the Intermediate squad of Diana Whan, Mary Longmore, Karen Curran, Susan Magennis, Megan Whan, Ann Magennis, Helen Smyth, Sheelagh English and Anne Mairs have all played their part in this wonderful achievement. 

“We are so very proud of you, and wish you well in your quest for continued success.”

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