McGinley heads queue of potential Irish captains

NOT once since the event began in 1927 has an Irishman captained a Britain & Ireland or Europe Ryder Cup team.

The trend continues next year with Jose-Maria Olazabal becoming the second Spaniard to lead the side and deservedly so given his contributions to the European cause.

However, it is time the Irish drought was ended and if one of our several candidates isn’t chosen for Gleneagles in 2014, then some searching questions will be asked of the European Tour. Indeed, it could be that the next three captains will come from this country. The indications are that Paul McGinley is being vetted for 2014 after his appointment for a second time to lead Britain & Ireland in the Seve Trophy in Paris next week.

McGinley handled the task with his customary efficiency and good humour two years ago when B&I emerged winners of an event created by Seve Ballesteros in 2000 to be contested in a non-Ryder Cup year. It has had a few ups and downs in the intervening years and was dogged by bad weather when first staged in Ireland at Druids Glen in 2002 and by the absence of a single home player when it returned to the Heritage in County Laois in 2007. Nick Faldo declined to offer McGinley a captain’s pick and the Irish public responded by staying away.

However, the Dubliner, remained undaunted and obliged when asked to undertake the captaincy two years later at St Nom-La-Breteche. There was widespread agreement that he did a superb job in a week best remembered for the emergence of Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell as a readymade Ryder Cup partnership in 2010.

Inevitably, McGinley was touted as a certain Ryder Cup captain of the near future, however, when Olazabal expressed an interest in the role for Chicago in 2011, his appointment was set in stone. Happy to bide his time, McGinley accepted the leadership of the Seve Trophy team when requested to do so by Olazabal with the support of the European Tour. It was another clear signal that the big job would be the Dubliner’s in 2014.

However, the plot thickened when Darren Clarke won the British Open at Royal St Georges in July. The 43-year-old Dungannon man also has an outstanding Ryder Cup record as a player and, like McGinley, was one of Colin Montgomerie’s vice-captains at Celtic Manor last year. Clarke, 43, is intent on playing himself back into the side in Chicago but after that would love a crack at the captaincy. He has expressed a dislike for the Monarchs Course at Gleneagles, the stage for the 2014 clash, and that could tell against him. More likely, he would have to wait another two years. And then there’s Pádraig Harrington, 40 last week, and so of the ideal age for the 2018 match in Paris. It is inconceivable that the winner of three Majors — so far — would not captain Europe some day.

It is also good to note that players keen to be in Olazabal’s side in Chicago are already building up their points dividend. While Thomas Bjorn was stealing the limelight for the second week in a row in Switzerland, the likes of Martin Kaymer, McIlroy and Lee Westwood were staking early claims.

McIlroy (now 2nd in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai order of merit behind Luke Donald after tying for third in Switzerland), Clarke, Westwood and Kaymer chase further points in the KLM Dutch Open at Hilversum this week while the other Irish in the field are Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Gareth Maybin, McGinley and Michael Hoey.

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