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Joyous Joyce Masters Munster

Article Added: 2012/05/30

Noel Joyce (Hillview) captured the Munster Senior Matchplay title in dramatic fashion at Tipp Hills recently when he defeated Ireland Number 1, John Walsh (Collins). In surely one of the most entertaining finals ever witnessed, Joyce who was making his 3rd final appearance refused to give in to his talented opponent. Joyce first made the final of this tournament back in 1988 where he was beaten in sudden death at Lakeside by John Carroll (Ferrybank), He was then defeated by his close friend Sean Minogue (Riverdale) in the final at Tralee in 1991. It was a fairytale story for Joyce as the majestic player for so long gave up the game last year due to his putting woes and one wondered would the silver haired fox ever grace the game again. He decided to give it one last go at the beginning of this year and fortunes favour the brave and this was so evidently witnessed at Tipperary Hills.

Joyce was victorious in his earlier games against JP Fletton (Tralee) and clubmate John Fitzgerald (Hillview) to ensure he made the Semi Finals where he was to play John McGrath (Deerpark). This game saw a nervous Joyce just edge over the line with magnificent putts on the 35th and 36th holes to claim victory.

Joyce began the final against Walsh in a steady fashion picking up birdies at 2 & 3 to remain level. Then Joyce reeled back the years and clearly showed that his pitching skills are still very much on par with the very best. In saying that though his putter began to strike the ball with great conviction and Joyce birdied from the 6th to the 13th and whilst Walsh responded with 5 birdies he found himself 3 down and shell-shocked. Joyce finished the round in –11 to grab a lead of 2 up with the final 18 to go. Joyce was unrelenting in his pitching, infact both players began to really excel but Walsh was finding it hard to breakdown the battle hardened master from Hillview. Walsh then began the fightback, he chipped in on 8 only for Noel to hole a 8 foot putt to remain in control, then Joyce pitched to within 6 inches on 9 but Walsh held from 12 feet. A turning point in the match came on 11 where Walsh held from 10 feet and Joyce for once missed and his lead was down to 3. Joyce then hit a very poor pitch on 12 and his supporters were thinking the worst when he lost this hole but his putts on 13 and 14 gave renewed hope after Walsh had held birdie putts from 10 feet respectively. Walsh was in no mood to give in and he wasn’t trying to retain this title for the 4th year running for nothing. His pitches to 15 and 16 were brilliant and suddenly Joyce found himself 1 down playing the penultimate hole. Both players pitched to within 7 feet and with Walsh slightly outside Noel he calmly holed his putt leaving Joyce with a putt to stay in the match. Joyce brilliantly holed to take the game down the final hole. Both players found the green but Walsh pitched to within 2 feet of the hole and Noel was 6 feet. Noel held the putt and waited for Walsh to putt. Uncharacteristically Walsh pushed his putt and suddenly it was game on again. Joyce had to control his emotions at this stage as he found himself gone but now he was back in the frame again. The long walk back to the 1st helped his cause no doubt as he was able to take it all in and relax again.

The Sudden death play off was to ensue and Joyce found the green but Walsh pitched to within 18 inches of the hole. Joyce had a tricky 7 foot putt which he duly holed and off to the 2nd we went. Joyce found the green but was about 12 feet from the hole and Walsh got a lucky bounce to get into to 5 feet from the hole. Whoever said Joyce had putting problems as his putt was hit so well and with so much conviction that it never left the hole, much to the delight of the Tipperary contingent. Walsh once again showed his class by holing his tricky 5 footer. The 3rd hole had proved troublesome for Noel for most of the day and once again he hit a poor pitch. Walsh pitched to within 3 feet, looking like setting up victory. However Joyce hit a fantastic chip that duly found the bottom of the hole to really put the pressure back on John Walsh. Again the drama unfolded when Walsh missed his putt and finally Noel Joyce had been crowned Munster Champion after 24 years of his first final.

“ The Cinderella Man” can only be used to describe Noel in recent weeks and everyone associated with Tipperary Putt were extremely proud of his achievement after experiencing such heartache in recent years. He was an extremely popular winner and it clearly showed that class is permanent and form is temporary. Noel Joyce is as gracious and modest a player as anyone could meet and this was clearly evident in his victory speech but the one thing that Noel can take from this victory is that he still has all the attributes of a top class player and this win will give him the belief going forward into the future.

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