It’s a big few days for golfer Robbie Cannon, and his life could look much different by next weekend, if results go his way. The Balbriggan man tees off at 8am today in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open qualifier, at Moyvalley.
The reigning Irish Amateur Close champion is one of six amateurs in the field and reckons a round in the mid-60s would leave him well placed to chase down one of four qualifying spots on offer for Lahinch next weekend. Cannon requested an early tee-time today, because he doubles as the strength-and-conditioning coach for Laois, who take on Offaly in round 3 of the All-Ireland qualifiers this evening.
“I was pretty confident in the team getting this far, because I actually requested the early tee-time two weeks ago,” said Cannon. “I was fearful we were going to get a 2pm throw-in; it would have been tight enough, but luckily it’s 7pm.
“The second round of qualifying is on Sunday, so a good scenario would be a nice 66 on Saturday morning and then we put in a performance against Offaly and, hopefully, I can finish it off on Sunday.”
Making it to Lahinch would be a huge achievement, not just because Cannon is an amateur, but because his normally reliable long game has been letting him down.
Still, as Mallow’s new British Amateur champion, James Sugrue — Cannon’s foursomes partner for Ireland in last September’s HomeInternationals — demonstrated last weekend, golfing fortunes can turn in an instant.
A bigger opportunity will be presented to Cannon next Tuesday, when he plays in final qualifying for the Open, by virtue of his Irish Amateur win. He will be in a field at St Anne’s Old Links, in Lancashire, that includes world number 57, Emiliano Grillo, ex-Ryder Cup player Jamie Donaldson, and 2008 Irish Open winner, Richard Finch.
Regardless of how he performs in the coming days, Cannon will retain an interest in both the Irish Open, next weekend, and the Open, in Portrush, as Shane Lowry’s fitness advisor. They met a couple of times this week and will both be in Portlaoise this evening, though clearly in opposite camps.
“He’s going to try to get to the game,” said Cannon of the Offaly native. “He’s down in Adare for the weekend, just having some family time, ahead of the Irish Open.”
Cannon would love to leave Lowry disappointed this evening and is optimistic about Laois’ chances of advancing to round 4, next weekend, when a golden ticket to the Super 8s will be on offer.
“I think, in the second half against Derry last weekend, we put in a really good performance,” he said.
We missed a lot of goal chances. In the first half, we probably had a bit to work on. We need to start putting in performances of that second-half standard for a lot longer. Like, I don’t think this team is anywhere near its true potential. There’s so many good players.
Cannon is in his second year working with Laois, after agreeing to meet for a coffee with manager, John Sugrue, in late 2017 and realising, “after about five minutes”, their shared philosophies.
It’s a simple philosophy, according to Cannon, based on hard work over a long period. He works with underage Laois football teams, too, similar to the all- encompassing role of Bryan Cullen, in Dublin, and reckons many counties are lagging behind in laying down good coaching and fitness structures.
“It’s not just the S&C side of it, it’s the whole structure, the coaching structure, everything has to be looked at,” he said. “That’s what Dublin did. They’ve obviously got a lot of intelligent, smart people involved there. But every county in Ireland has got smart people and good coaches. It’s just about getting them involved and putting some good structures in place.
“I would be of the opinion that you don’t look for excuses; actually go and work harder. Because if you work harder, you generally get some results. It might not guarantee you an All-Ireland in five years, but you’ll certainly be a lot closer than where you were when you were just giving out about it all the time.
"I just think there’s a bit of a culture in this country of people wanting to give out all the time, instead of actually just putting in the work. I’d completely agree with what Jim Gavin said last weekend, that it was quite insulting to players to say (their success) is all about money, that it’s all about coaches getting paid. It’s not: it’s about hard work. I completely agree with what he said: if counties want to get better, just work harder.”