The line of people looking for autographs and photographs looked like it would never end for Paul McGinley.
But as he posed with some of the guests who attended the GUI Champions’ Dinner at Carton House, the guest of honour had other things on his mind.
Standing in a corner afterwards, he tried to keep the weight off his troublesome left knee and revealed the depths of his personal injury nightmare and his determination to battle his way back to the top.
While other Irish players like Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry and Graeme McDowell are looking forward to a huge year, McGinley would be happy to know when his comeback will begin.
Eight weeks after having knee surgery for the sixth time in his career, the 41-year old Dubliner knows it could be at least another month before he is able to play again and show the world that there is life in the old dog yet.
“It’s taking a long time to recover. I’ve had six operations on that knee and the kneecap’s really battered,” said McGinley who has turned to Padraig Harrington’s physiotherapist Dr Liam Hennessy for advice but knows that he’s unlikely to be able to play until mid-February at the earliest.
“Liam’s given me some great ideas, some insight and I’m reinvigorated now in the next two weeks to do some hard training.”
McGinley wants to compete with the best in the world but he’s light years away from being able to stand toe to toe with Harrington or McIlroy right now.
“Yes, this is the toughest moment of my career and I’m going to find out a lot about myself over the next few years,” he said. “All I can say is I’m hugely ambitious. It hurts like hell I’ve had the year I did last year. It hurts like hell that I’ve fallen down the Order of Merit.”
While Harrington dreams of completing the Grand Slam and his stablemate McIlroy plots a course that could see him become world No 1 over the next 18 months, McGinley is simply trying to keep his spirits up.
He is now ranked a lowly 226th in the world and barring a miraculous return to form, he will sit out this season’s majors and World Golf Championships.
But he is also famed for his grit and determination and while he feels he has been written off as a competitive force and added to the list of potential Ryder Cup captains, he’s not ready to be put out of pasture just yet.
“It’s hard to stop myself getting deflated,” he said. “Having such a bad year in 2009, my worst ever on Tour, the last thing I wanted over the winter period was an injury because I have work to do.
“I’ve been thinking of Bob Torrance every day and I’m just so frustrated because I’ve work to do and things to catch-up on that I missed out last year.
“I’d such a bad year and when you’ve had a bad year, you want to get back to work. I know why I didn’t play well last year and I want to put it right.
“I’m frustrated that I’m stuck here standing on one leg because I can’t do the stuff I want to do.
“I’ve done everything I was meant to do over the last eight weeks, all the physio told me and all the surgeon told me and I’m still not even close to playing but it’s not their fault.
“I haven’t hit a shot for eight weeks. I’m not even close. I tried to hit some shots over Christmas, 40 yard pitches was all I could do. I can’t put any stress or speed into it.”
He admits that given his limited schedule, he cannot play enough big money evens to qualify automatically for Colin Montgomerie’s Ryder Cup side to face the Americans at Celtic Manor in October.
But Montgomerie will have three captain’s picks instead of two and McGinley is clinging to the hope that he can play well enough to force his way into the Scot’s thoughts comes the end of the qualifying campaign.
“I won’t make the team or merit from where I am in the world and where I am with regard to getting into tournaments. Having said that, the captain’s got three picks this year and if I play well in the tournaments I do play, obviously win and contend and have a high level of consistency, even if I don’t make the team he’s got three picks this year.
“I’ve a lot of ambitions left. I know everybody is painting me into the picture of vice-captain or captain down the road, but I’m really not ready for that role yet.
“I’ve got to prove it to myself more than anybody else that I can still play. The only way I can do that is by doing the work, working with Bob, getting out there and practicing in a coherent way.”