Ireland celebrate after stunning singles fightback
R&A: Saturday Sept 18th
FORMAT: four-country round-robin series (5 foursomes/10 singles per match)
Irish eyes were definitely smiling last night as a pulsating Men’s Home International series reaching a nerve-wracking conclusion at Hankley Common.
The outcome of the trophy eventually came down to a 10-foot birdie putt from England’s Callan Barrow (Royal Lytham). Had the Lancashire player holed it, Scotland would have celebrated their first win in the competition for nine years.
However it just slipped by meaning England and Ireland tied and that half point was enough for John Carroll’s men to celebrate their first victory in the tournament since 2017.
However after the foursomes things weren’t looking good for Ireland. They failed to win a single tie and were 4-1 down going into the final afternoon. However they rallied brilliantly, particularly the bottom order, with Galway’s Liam Nolan hanging on to gain the crucial point against Barrow.
“I honestly wasn’t nervous all day,” said Carroll. “Even when we lost the foursomes this morning I still had hope in the boys. It was a disappointing morning, but we saw Scotland beat England 8-2 in singles yesterday and that gave us hope. We knew we could come back and the boys were absolutely brilliant this afternoon.”
In the singles the tone was set by the top match which pitched England amateur champion John Gough (Stoke Park) against Irish Amateur runner-up Robert Moran (Castle). Incredibly the BB&O player was one down at halfway despite being six under par. The halved tie would eventually produce 17 birdies while Gough would just miss out on a perfect record having won his previous five. Moran also had a fantastic week and finished with five points out of six.
“It’s the best match I’ve ever played in,” said the Irish star. “John is a really good friend of mine and for us to halve the match with those scores and that standard is bizarre. Neither of us deserved to lose, so it was a fair half that I was just glad to get to help the team.”
In the anchor tie, Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty was five under par as he claimed every hole on the front nine against an out-of-sorts British Amateur champion Laird Shepherd (Rye). He eventually won 8&7.
A narrow England victory would have given the title to Scotland by virtue of them winning more individual ties. Matt Clark’s men finished off in style, seeing off Wales 11-4.
He said: “From day one onwards my team has played great. The Irish have just done what was pretty much unthinkable at lunchtime.
“They were 4-1 down and to turn England over 6½-3½ in the singles was tremendous because England were hurting after we beat them and they came out fighting. So, for Ireland to turn the tables shows great character.
“They are a great set of boys, with good management. You have to say fair play and tip your hat to them.”
Scotland were 4.5-0.5 ahead after the foursomes yesterday and then their bottom order delivered the points to ensure that if Ireland did lose, they would finish top overall.
In the bottom clash Murrayfield’s Andrew Ni collected his fifth point out of a possible six with a 4&3 victory over Ashburnham’s Aled Greville. The Scottish star made the trip over from Colorado State University to make his Home Internationals debut, a round trip of nearly 5,000 miles.