Underdogs Munster quietly confident they can pull off another surprise

Even though they are the defending champions and will be performing on home territory, Munster are regarded as underdogs in the Senior Men’s Interprovincial Championship beginning at Lee Valley this morning.

A side captained by Lee Valley’s own Phil Cooney confounded the pundits 12 months ago when sweeping the boards at Royal Co Down and, with only one change from that side, there is quiet confidence in the home camp that they can again pull off a surprise. However, the bookmaker are quoting Leinster as 7/4 favourites and even then there is a degree of surprise that Munster (2/1) are quoted ahead of Ulster (9/4) with 2011 champion Connacht on offer at 11/2.

“Being underdogs is nothing new for us and that’s the way we like it,” said Cooney last night. “You never know what’s going to happen in match-play and with only one change from last year, I know the spirit is good and the lads are very keen to retain the trophy. Ian O’Rourke is currently in the US and so wasn’t available but Kieran Lynch is a very able replacement.”

The Munster captain has opted to stick with two of last year’s pairings, Kevin Phelan and Alan Thomas and Gary O’Flaherty and Niall Gorey for this morning’s foursomes session against Connacht while for the afternoon singles he is sending Geoff Lenehan, who plays his golf out of Portmarnock but represents Munster because of his membership of Waterville, in the top match against Gary McDermott. Gary Hurley, the West Waterford player who reached the final of the recent North of Ireland Championship, goes out at number 2 against Barry Anderson, while many will also wish to see Kevin Phelan, who qualified for this year’s US Open, do battle at number 3 against Stephen Healy, the runner-up in last year’s South of Ireland Championship.

The clash of Ulster and Leinster promises to be a close affair and visitors to Lee Valley would do well to keep a watchful eye on the top single involving Chris Selfridge, the North of Ireland champion, and Robbie Cannon, winner of this year’s Irish Amateur Open.

The Boys Interpros run concurrently with the Seniors, beginning off the 10th tee at the same time. Today Leinster, the holders, meet Connacht and Ulster come up against Munster.

This is an especially important week for Phil Cooney and his fellow members at Lee Valley, whose owner, Jerry Keohane, has been the recipient of glowing praise for the outstanding condition of the beautifully located Christy O’Connor Junior designed lay-out near Ovens.

“Yes, the greens are in really great conditions and obviously the fairways are pretty hard after all the dry weather and quite like a links and so there will certainly be a few favourable and a few unfavourable bounces”, says Cooney.

“Mick Cashman was Chairman of the Branch when he decided to bring the event here and he has now passed on so it would be great to win the title in his memory. An additional bonus is that one of our members, Greg O’Mahony has earned a place in the Munster team for the Boys Interpros.”

The foursomes, seniors off 1st tee, boys 10th, begin each day at 8am with the singles starting shortly before 2pm.

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