By Brian Keogh
Christy O’Connor Junior tore a strip off Colin Montgomerie this week and roared – Don’t insult the Irish.
O’Connor was annoyed by the Scot's dismissal of Irish claims to the Ryder Cup captaincy in 2006.
Promoting his autobiography, The Real Monty, Montgomerie revealed that he is the ideal man to skipper Europe at the K Club because he doesn’t believe there is a realistic Irish candidate for the job.
“I don’t think there is a natural Irish captain at the moment,” Montgomerie said. “I have to ask myself is the next Ryder Cup my last. If it is I’ll take the captaincy in Ireland. If approached the answer would be yes.”
But O’Connor has taken Montgomerie’s remarks to heart.
He said: “Monty is a great player but I think what he says is a load of baloney. Does that mean that there is no Irishman with the brains or the gumption to take on the job? That’s what it sounds like to me.
“That’s what he appears to be saying. And if that IS what he’s saying then it’s one hell of an insult to any Irish person.”
Montgomerie has refused to say whether he feels better equipped to do the job that O’Connor, Des Smyth or Eamonn Darcy.
“I don't want to make those sort of comparisons. All I'm saying is that I believe I would have the necessary credentials to deliver a winning team at The K Club,” he ventured.
The Scot would be willing to have a token Irishman in his backroom staff but O’Connor is having none of it.
“We certainly have the ability – myself and Eamonn and Des are more than able to captain a Ryder Cup side without any problem.
“Age does not matter and we are all still playing tournament golf.”
Montgomerie has also argued that just because Seve Ballesteros captained Europe in Spain in 1997 that an Irishman should automatically get the job in the K Club
“I've already made it clear that I don't accept comparisons between Seve's captaincy in 1997 and the Irish staging in 2006. As I see it, Spain got the Ryder Cup as an acknowledgement of Seve's marvellous contribution to the European game.
"Seve was special, but the 2006 event is intended to honour Ireland, not an individual Irishman. Otherwise, it would be a bit like arguing that when the Ryder Cup went to Brookline in 1999, the American team should have been captained by a Bostonian.”
But O’Connor countered: “I agree that Seve was special, but that is still no reason why it shouldn’t go to an Irish person on merit.
That is the most important thing.
“There have been 20 English captains, seven Scottish, six Welsh and one Spaniard. What the hell is wrong with us – have we got something?
“I don’t see anything wrong with having and Irish captain. It would be like having a 20 percent advantage for us.
“I think the Irish are wonderful golf watchers and they would be a help to an Irish captain in Ireland.
“I don’t agree with what he’s saying at all. It is in Ireland and we are a learned golf public. I think it would be a huge upmanship.
“There is no doubt in my mind that we are capable of doing the job. But it is the 12 players that have the real job to do. The captain’s main responsibility is the get your pairings right.”
But Montgomerie appears to be determined to go for the job with Nick Faldo determined to play in the next edition in the US in 2004.
“Some people say that 2006 might be a bit early for me, but I feel that I will still have a rapport with the younger players like Nick Dougherty, Phil Casey, Justin Rose and others,” he explained.
“I will also still be playing alongside the likes of Thomas Bjorn, Darren Clarke, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington who, hopefully, will still be in the team as well.
“Playing alongside them, as Sam has done for the last two years, helped his captaincy. Being part of it all, I feel, is very important.”
O’Connor, meanwhile, plans to play even less golf next season as he concentrates more on his golf course design business.
Like his uncle Christy Senior, O’Connor hates travelling to the United States where airport controls are now extremely strict since the September 11 atrocities.
He explained: “The travel and the searching is just so bad now after September 11. There are three full searches now if you are a non-American and it’s diabolical and I couldn’t go through that every Monday.
“I’ll play five or six in the States next year and I’ll play approximately the same in Europe or probably a little less.
“I’ll be concentrating on my golf course design, which is going very well for me and that’s really where I’m at.”
O’Connor has no status in the US but is popular with sponsors and hopes to secure invitations.
“They like me playing with their teams in the pro-ams. I’d certainly get into five or six on invites and play the two tournaments I have won of course.”
As for the prospects of Eamonn Darcy and Des Smyth should they qualify for the US Seniors Tour, O’Connor is optimistic.
“They should walk through the first stage and then in the second one you have go to be steady.
“They way Des is playing he is a foregone conclusion to get into the top eight and get a full card, I would have thought.”
Should the Ryder Cup job come along, he says he would spend a year following the tour at close quarters.
“If I got the job I would spend most of 2005 on the European Tour, following the guys and just keeping an eye. I would definitely make myself know to all the players,” he said.
If Montgomerie gets his wish, O’Connor may be watching the action from behind the ropes.