The battle was on a knife-edge throughout the day but Ireland, although without three key players in Paul Dunne, Gary Hurley and Cormac Sharvin, looked as they though they would just squeeze home when Stuart Grehan came to the last one up on Paul Kinnear in the deciding match, requiring a half on the hole to see Ireland home.
But Grehan, one of five new caps in the side, lost the demanding final hole after finding an unplayable lie in a bush – and that meant their game finished all square and Ireland and England were level at 7.5 apiece.
It was Grehan’s reverse, coupled with the middle order defeat of Robin Dawson, who also lost the last hole to Alfie Plant, that caused Ireland real anguish. With McBride losing on the last hole to Sean Towndrow after a nip and tuck dual it was absolutely imperative Grehan held on for at least a half but it was not to be. Earlier the Irish edged to a 3-2 foursomes success thanks to South of Ireland champion Grehan and Paul McBride, another new cap winning the closing two holes against Kinnear and Jamie Bower.
In the singles, Walker Cup player Gavin Moynihan was involved in a battle royal with double European champion Ashley Chesters before succumbing on the closing green, while Jack Hume from Naas fought tooth and nail with established international Jimmy Mullen in the top of the order clash and they ended with honours even.
Mullen got up and down on the last to snatch a half and Hume failed with an eight-footer he needed for the win.
Colin Fairweather from Knock and last year’s British Boys Championship runner-up Rowan Lester of Hermitage, both debutants were thoroughly impressive as they recorded victories over Tomasz Anderson and Ashton Turner respectively.
Whitehead’s John-Ross Galbraith, recalled to the team played a splendid anchor role always holding the upper hand against Bower as he strolled to a 3&2 triumph as the Englishman went out of bounds on the 16th. Galbraith took his unbeaten run in international golf to eight games with this success.
In the other opening day match Scotland thrashed last year’s runners-up Wales 11.5-3.5
Ireland face Scotland today – and they know that to stand any chance of retaining their crown they must record a victory.
Elsewhere, Irish hopes of success in the British Girls Open Amateur Championship at West Kilbride disappeared when all four of their qualifiers fell by the wayside.
Niamh McSherry, Annabel Wilson and Julie McCarthy all lost in the opening match-play round and they were followed onto the sidelines later by the highly-fancied Olivia Mehaffey, who lost to Eva Gilly of France 4&2.
Mehaffey had earlier beaten Switzerland’s Azelia Meichtry.
Meanwhile, fog caused a half hour delay to play on the second day of the British Boys Open Amateur Championship on Merseyside.
When play did resume County Louth’s Thomas Mulligan made certain of qualifying for the knockout phase firing a level par 72 at Southport and Ainsdale for a 142 aggregate. to lie sixth.
Peter Kerr of Royal Prtrush also qualified with a 147 total despite a 75 at Birkdale yesterday.