Leinster survive Connacht scare at Interprovincial Championship

Connacht staged a magnificent fightback in the afternoon singles against holders Leinster on the opening day of the Interprovincial Championship at Fota Island yesterday before going down 6-5 in a gripping clash.

In contrast, however, a powerful looking Ulster side disposed of Munster 8½ to 2½, newcomer Andrew McCormack emerging the only home team singles winner.

The matches took place on a Deerpark layout in absolutely superb condition. The players responded positively to the course being set up on the same template as prevailed for the 2014 Irish Open with similar pin and tee positions.

Leinster were without Jack Hume, Stuart Grehan, Paul McBride, and Conor O’Rourke, all on duty with the Irish team competing in this week’s European Championship in Paris, but still looked to be in total command against Connacht once they had taken a 3-1 lead after the foursomes.

Even though they lost the top two singles – Stephen Healy going down to Rowan Lester and Jack McDonnell to Jonathan Yates - Connacht demonstrated that they were still very much up for the fight when Sean Flanagan got the better of Kevin LeBlanc on the final green and Ronan Mullarney completed a great day’s work by beating Thomas Mulligan 3 and 2. There was the possibility of an upset for a time before Conor Purcell clinched the decisive 6th point for Leinster with an 18th green defeat of Mark Morrissey. Just how little separated the teams, however, became apparent when Cathal Nolan and Joe Lyons edged out Caolan Rafferty and Daniel Holland on the 18th to leave only a single point between the sides.

Munster could hardly have got their campaign off to a worse start when Robin Dawson and John Hickey were thrashed 7 and 6 by the bang in form Colin Fairweather and Dermot McElroy in the first foursomes although the picture brightened for the hosts when Kinsale’s highly promising Cathal Butler teamed up with Peter O’Keeffe, now back in amateur ranks after a spell as a professional, to beat former South of Ireland champion Stuart Bleakley and Jordan Hood by 4 and 3. New cap Andrew McCormack and the experienced Gary O’Flaherty also hit it off well when finishing all square with Gareth Lappin and Ben Best, leaving Ulster 2 ½ points to 1 ½ at the halfway stage.

Any doubt as to the eventual outcome was removed when McElroy, Fairweather, Irish Close champion Tiarnan McLarnan and Lappin made a clean sweep of the first four singles. McCormack avoided a complete whitewash when he won against Ben Best as Ulster coasted home by 8 ½ to 2 ½.

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