‘Dublin defeat a reminder of favourite’s tag perils’

Paul McGinley put the finishing touches to a strong European Ryder Cup team bound for Gleneagles in three weeks but admitted the fate that befell Dublin’s footballers was a stark warning about the pitfalls of favouritism.

‘Dublin defeat a reminder of favourite’s tag perils’

GAA fanatic McGinley named Stephen Gallacher, Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter as his captain’s picks to join nine automatic qualifiers led by world number one Rory McIlroy in a team strongly fancied to defeat Tom Watson’s US in Scotland on September 26-28.

Ryder Cup livewire Poulter had long been considered a lock for a wild card, while Westwood was chosen at the expense of fellow former world number one Luke Donald.

Gallacher, who just came up short in his quest for an automatic spot for a debut in his homeland, impressed captain McGinley sufficiently with his third-place finish at the Italian Open on Sunday, just as his beloved Dublin footballers were suffering a shock All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Donegal at Croke Park.

It gave sufficient pause for thought for McGinley as he returned home from Milan on Sunday night to watch a recording of the game into the small hours, reminding him that, while a favourite’s tag can be embraced, it also did very little for defending champions Dublin.

“I don’t think we’re serious favourites but we’ll be favourites and it’s a tag I think we should be proud of,” McGinley, pictured right, said yesterday after announcing his wild cards at Wentworth, home to the European Tour.

“If you look back to the days of (two-time captain from 1979 and ’81) John Jacobs and there’s tears in his eyes that Europe have come so far to be favourites in a Ryder Cup.

“We should be proud of that but as we all saw with Dublin-Donegal last weekend, I know Jim Gavin and he would have prepared that Dublin team incredibly well and incredibly strongly. He would have had a very strong strategy too and going out (as) such heavy favourites and they still get beaten.

“That’s sport, that’s what happens at the top level. Sometimes it just goes against you and I’m aware that could happen to this European team as well but my job is to lessen the odds of that happening and have the team very prepared, both mentally and physically. Jim Gavin would have done that with Dublin too and they went out and got beaten, so that’s what we’re dealing with here, it’s top level sport.”

McGinley has a very good team at his disposal for Gleneagles on September 26-28 with his wild cards finalised on Monday night at around 8:30pm following the conclusion of the PGA Tour’s Deutsche Bank Championship in Boston, which saw Poulter finish strongly after a season hit by injury and poor form with a final round, five-under-par 66.

Gallacher’s Italian Open determination in finishing third was good enough for McGinley, whose final pick went to Westwood at the expense of Donald and Francesco Molinari.

Yet the captain was more than happy with his choices. “I think we have three players that will add a lot to the nine qualified, and make the European team as strong as it needs to be to take on the might of America. We have our 12 players on the board. Roll on the end of September.”

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