Attention switches from the magnificent links at Lahinch, where the South of Ireland held stage for five days, to the splendid parkland layout at Mullingar for the annual August Bank Holiday 72 hole Scratch Cup sponsored this year by Grant Thornton.
While most of our leading players will have their minds set on joining the many illustrious names adorning the trophy, they will also be keeping a serious eye out for news of the British & Irish Walker Cup team set to be announced by the captain, Scotland’s Colin Dalgleish, on Sunday.
There is considerable speculation on this side of the water as to how many Irish players will gain one of the coveted 10 places. There are at least three in with a great chance, Paul Cutler from Portstewart, Alan Dunbar of Rathmore and Niall Kearney of Royal Dublin.
Teenager Dunbar staked his claim by winning the highly prestigious St Andrews Links trophy while Kearney jumped into the reckoning when he captured the Brabazon Trophy for the English Stroke Play Championship. In the normal course of things, those achievements would have been enough to put Dunbar and Kearney into the side but the grapevine is telling us otherwise.
Dunbar’s youth (he was a member of the Irish boys team that completed the Grand Slam in last year’s Home International Championship) and relative inexperience of senior golf is being held against him while Kearney’s win in the Brabazon is apparently being downplayed because the weather restricted the championship to 54 holes.
Insiders believe that Cutler, the current East of Ireland champion and a recent beaten finalist in the North of Ireland, along with being a member of the successful Irish European Championship teams of 2007 and 2008, has the best chance of getting to Merion for the clash with the Americans next month.
Cutler, Kearney and Dunbar all take part in the Mullingar Scratch Cup along with Dara Larnihan, Cian Curley and Simon Ward, the other members of this year’s Irish European Championship team. Pressing them will be national panel members Andrew Hogan, Eoin Arthurs, Nicky Grant, Paul O’Kane, Nicky Grant, Seamus Power and newly-crowned South of Ireland champion Robbie Cannon.
The various provincial selection committees have been hard at work of late finalising their teams for the Championship to be held at Douglas on August 12-14. Munster, captained this year by Sean O’Leary, certainly got a badly-needed boost in the South of Ireland when five of their players reached the last eight, although one of the quintet, Seanie Barry of Lee Valley, has to be content with a non-travelling reserve role.
Eamonn Haugh of Castletroy, Tim O’Mahony (Mallow), Clare man Stephen Loftus and Cork youngster Ian O’Rourke are the new caps with the experience provided by Karl Bornemann, who will provide valuable local knowledge to the cause over his home Douglas course; South of Ireland runner-up Gary O’Flaherty, Pat Murray, David Finn, Aaron O’Callaghan and Seamus Power, who will hopefully have recovered from injury in time to take his place.
Even though pipped for the title by Leinster at Athlone last year, Ulster travel with a powerful-looking side and one well capable of regaining the crown. Walker Cup team candidates Cutler and Dunbar are included along with new North of Ireland champion Wayne Telford and 2007 South of Ireland winner Darren Crowe.
Leinster will be led by Robbie Cannon, the new South of Ireland champion, and captained by Barry Reddan, another who knows what it is to leave Lahinch with the coveted trophy in his possession.
ULSTER: D Crowe (Dunmurry), S Crowe (Dunmurry), P Cutler (Portstewart), C Doran (Banbridge), A Dunbar (Rathmore), N Grant (Knock), L Lennox (Moyola Park), P O’Kane (Moyola Park), C Selfridge (Moyola Park), W Telford (Rathmore). Non travelling reserves: R Leonard (Banbridge) & M Sinclair (Knock).
LEINSTER: R Cannon (Laytown & Bettystown), C Curley (Newlands), J Fox (Portmarnock), A Hogan (Newlands), N Kearney (Royal Dublin), D Lernihan (Castle), R McNamara (Headfort), J Monaghan (The Island), D Morgan (Mullingar), S Ward (Co. Louth). Non Travelling Reserve: C Martin (Kilkenny), B Walton (The Island). Captain: B Reddan (Co Louth); Manager: D Feeney (Malahide).