Relentless Ireland crush England to set up European title showdown with Spain

Gary Hurley was a rock for Ireland in the semi-final win over England. Picture: Thos Caffrey /

Shane Lowry called it the best Irish side since he and Rory McIlroy played their part in the first of back-to-back European Amateur Men's Team Championship wins in Scotland in 2007.

This time the venue is Linna Golf in Finland — home of Irish Open champion Mikko Ilonen — but the golf was of the same stellar order as the side captained by Pádraig Hogan and mentored by National Coach Neil Manchip crushed the holders England 5-2 to set up a title decider with Spain on Saturday.

The six-man unit of Gavin Moynihan, Cormac Sharvin, Gary Hurley, Paul Dunne, Jack Hume and Dermot McElroy has proved to be a formidable one and with their putters only now cooling down after some sensational performances with the blade over the past few days, Spain know they are in for a torrid match having seen of Scotland with relative ease in their semi-final.

"They played superbly," said the non-playing skipper.  "I would have been quite happy even before playing this morning to share the foursomes 1-1 and that's how it turned out."

While the top pair of Sharvin and Moynihan lost 3 and 2 to Ryan Evans and Paul Howard, Dunne and Hurley easily beat Ben Stow and Jordan Smith 4 and 2 to set up what proved to be a near whitewash of the English in the afternoon.

"Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley played superbly to close out their match quite early and Cormac and Gavin played well but struggled a little bit off the tee and got out of position once or twice," captain Hogan said. "When you are playing to the standard we are at in a European semi-final, it is difficult to get back into the match."

In the singles, it was a green wave and England simply had no answer.

Moynihan beat Evans 4 and 3 and Sharvin saw off Jordan Smith 2 and 1 as McElroy held firm to take down the massive hitting Stow 2 and 1 and Hurley crushed Ashley Chesters with a birdie blitz.

Dunne lost on the 18th to the impressive Toby Tree but having rifled a six iron to 30 inches at the last he missed the putt for a half — a rarity this week for a man who is putting like a demon.

"In the afternoon the guys came out firing and they were absolutely relentless," the skipper said. "We got them to a nice comfortable lead in one or two matches early on and England looked physically nervous for some reason. They hadn't been behind in the singles yesterday and we knew they were liable to get a bit nervy if we could get at them early on.

"Gavin was a trooper. He didn't putt as well as he can this afternoon but his tee to green play was magnificent. Cormac was swashbuckling again and played fantastic golf. He is full of confidence at the moment and he just peppered the flags.

"Paul had a tough match against Toby Tree and I have never seen Paul hole as many putts as he has done over the last few days.

Himself and Gary in the morning firusomes were all square after eight and birdied the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th to go four up. Paul holing three of the putts between 10 and 20 feet and Gary holing one from 25 feet.

"It continued into the afternoon and having played in Home Internationals a couple of times and seen England putt us off the course, it was wonderful to see our boys hole so many on the greens today.

"Paul played quite well but got caught in the end. Having hit the most magnificent six iron into about two and a half feet, he missed the putt. Had he holed it, it would have meant England getting nothing out of the singles execpt a halved match.

"Dermot came in a No 4 having struggled a bit yesterday. But we brought him in today and playing Ben Stow was like David and Goliath.

"Ben Stow hits the ball miles and he was leaving Dermot 40 yards behind him off the tee. But Dermot holed a lovely putt on the third from about 12 feet to get a half and then hit a seven iron to about four feet at the next to go one up and he played fabulous golf after that and closed the match out on 17.

"Gary Hurley was the anchor man and he was like a dog with a bone. He never gives up and played wonderful golf at the back of the field and was at least four or five under when he closed out the match (against Chesters) on the 15th green."

Ireland won the title at Western Gailes in 2007 with Lowry and McIlroy joined by future Walker Cup player Jonny Caldwell, Richard Kilpatrick, Gareth Shaw and Simon Ward.

Lowry beat Victor Dubuisson 5 and 4 in the final as Ireland beat France 4.5 — 2.5 and he was a member of the winning side in Turin in 2008 when was again joined by Caldwell and Shaw with Paul Cutler, Paul O'Hanlon and Niall Kearney completing the six-man line-up. England (who had Chris Wood in their ranks) were Ireland's victims in the final, going down by 4.5 — 2.5.

There are no guarantees that Ireland can win the title for the sixth time following those wins in 1967, 1983, 1987 and that back-to-back run from 2007 to 2008.

"While we know we have a strong team, you never know when you get to a venue if the course is going to suit your eye," the captain said.

Whether Ireland use all six players in the final remains to be seen after Jack Hume was rested for the semi-finals.

The teams for the foursomes and singles only have to be submitted 30 minutes before the off, which gives both captains the flexibility to see how the foursomes have developed and then set out their singles order accordingly.

"If you've lost two-nil then you can go down the order and just go for it," the captain said. "If it is 1-1 you have flexibility, even more if you are two-nil up.

"We will wait and se how we set out the team tomorrow but the Spanish are very good side. 

"We are in good shape so hopefully we can go out now and see it through. It's always nice to beat England but it will be nicer if it is on the way to winning the title." 

European Amateur Team Championship, Linna Golf, Finland 



Ireland 5, England 2


  • Cormac Sharvin and Gavin Moynihan lost to Ryan Evans and Paul Howard 3/2
  • Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley beat Ben Stow and Jordan Smith 4/2.

Foursomes result: Ireland 1, England 1


  • Moynihan bt Evans 4/3.
  • Sharvin bt Jordan Smith 2/1
  • Paul Dunne lost to Toby Tree 1 hole
  • Dermot McElroy bt Stow 2/1
  • Hurley bt Ashley Chesters  5/3

Singles result: Ireland 4, England 1

Overall result: Ireland 5, England 1.

Semi-final: Spain 5, Scotland 2