Ben Best's dramatic final putt brings agony for Connacht

A dramatic 45 foot birdie putt on the 18th green at Fota Island last evening by Ulster’s Ben Best foiled Connacht of a famous victory on the second day of the Interprovincial Championship. The match ended 5½ points apiece, leaving Leinster, who defeated Munster 8-3, the favourites to retain the title when they take on Ulster in today’s decider.

Connacht were pipped by a single point by Leinster on Monday and their luck was out once again on this occasion. They did extremely well to share the morning foursomes and maintained the pressure on the much more fancied northern outfit with wins at number one for debutant Jack McDonnell over Dermot McElroy and for Ronan Mullarney over Stuart Bleakley to offset Ulster gains by Colin Fairweather and John Ross Galbraith over Mark Morrissey and Sean Flanagan.

Another Connacht new cap, Cathal Nolan, halved his clash with Gareth Lappin but one sensed that it wouldn’t be Connacht’s day when Shaun Carter hit the green at the great par five 18th with two cracking shots only to miss the three foot birdie putt and let Irish champion Tiarnan McLarnan off with a half. Then came Best’s unlikely heroics on the 18th thereby leaving Connacht and Joe Lyons (the sole survivor of their last championship win in 2011) to settle for a share of the spoils.

Dispirited after losing to Ulster on Monday when taking only 2½ points from the 11 on offer, Munster were very much on the back foot from the outset against Leinster and were whitewashed in the foursomes. Only one match, that in which Cathal Butler and Peter O’Keeffe fought valiantly against Caolan Rafferty and Eugene Smith, went as far as the final green.

Tramore’s Robin Dawson helped to lift Munster spirits a little when coming from behind to beat Rowan Lester in the number one singles on the final green but there was to be no escape for the host province. Leinster’s victory was ensured when Jonathan Yates and Conor Purcell won out in the country against Geoff Lenehan and Gary O’Flaherty and Kevin LeBlanc prevailed against O’Keeffe on the 17th.

For the second day in a row and fully justifying his first appearance for Munster, Andrew McCormack played impressively to join Dawson in the winner’s enclosure with a 16th green win over Rafferty while Pat Murray won the 18th to get the better of Daniel Holland but otherwise it was Leinster all the way.

Interprovincial Championship, day 2, Fota Ireland.

Leinster 8 Munster:

Leinster names first:

K LeBlanc and R Lester bt G Lenehan and P Murray 3 and 2; C Purcell and J Yates bt A McCormack and G O’Flaherty 5 and 3; C Rafferty and E Smith bt C Butler and P O’Keeffe 1 hole; D Holland and T Mulligan bt R Dawson and J Hickey 2 and 1.

Singles:

Lester lost to Dawson 1 hole; Yates bt Lenehan 5 and 4; Purcell bt O’Flaherty 7 and 5; LeBlanc bt O’Keeffe 2 and 1; Rafferty lost to McCormack 3 and 2; Smith bt Hickey 1 hole; Holland lost to Murray 1 hole.

Ulster 5 ½, Connacht 5 ½, Ulster names first:

Foursomes:

C Fairweather and D McElroy lost to S Flanagan and M Morrissey 5 and 4; J R Galbraith and T McLarnan bt S Carter and S Healy 5 and 4; B Best and G Lappin bt J McDonnell and R Mullarney 5 and 4; S Bleakley and J Hood lost to C Nolan and J Lyons 3 and 1. Singles, McElroy lost to McDonnell 1 hole; Fairweather bt Morrissey and 2; Galbraith bt Flanagan 2 holes; McLarnan halved with Carter; Lappin halved with Nolan; S Bleakley lost to Mullarney 5 and 3; Best halved with Lyons.


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