Ireland's hopes of winning the European Amateur Men's Team Championship title for the first time in six years were snuffed out by an impressive Spanish performance at Linna Golf in Finland today.
Pádraig Hogan's charges went into the decider on a high following Friday's convincing win over holders England. But in the end they were convincingly defeated 5-2 by the Spanish, who won three of the five singles in convincing fashion.
The standard of golf was of the highest order, as Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley showed when the better ball for the match was 62 as they won on the 18th and sent the sides into the singles tied at 1-1.
But the Spaniards played the better golf in the mano a mano clashes with Pep Anglés an estimated eight under par as he beat Ireland's No 1 Gavin Moynihan 6 and 4.
Mariano Galiano then beat Cormac Sharvin 4 and 3 to leave Spain on the brink of victory, which they achieved when Dermot McElroy went down 5 and 4 to another future star in Jon Rahm.
Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley might have won their games but where called in on the 14th and 15th greens.
And while he was clearly disappointed, Ireland's non-playing captain Pádraig Hogan had no complaints and expects at least three of his side to push for places in the Great Britain and Ireland St Andrews Trophy team on the back of this week's performances.
“It was a tough day at the office but the golf was absolutely fantastic," he said. "I have no complaints, the best team won. The foursomes was unbelievable, especially the second match between Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley and Mario Galiano and Pep Anglés. The better ball for the 18 holes was 62. Our guys were three up after nine and then birdied 10, parred 11, 12 and 13 and lost the four holes to go one down.
“We birdied 15 and 16 to go one up, they birdied 17 and we played 18 badly and ended up winning the match when Paul Dunne holed a 35 footer for four and they missed from four feet.
“So we could have easily been two-nil down in the foursomes having lost the first match on the 18th. But Pep Anglés was eight under par in the singles for the holes played against Gavin in the afternoon, which was unbelievably fantastic stuff.
“Dermot McElroy got off to a bad start against Jon Rahm and lost the first three holes to go three down. It drifted away and we quickly realised we had to win the other three matches. Cormac was two down after 11 and got it back to one down with four to play but Galiano birdied 15 and parred 16 and it was gone from us at that stage.
“Paul Dunne was all square playing the par-five 15th and had hit his second shot to 20 feet but his opponent Scott Fernandéz was in to three and a half feet and looked like going one down. And on the 14th green Gary Hurley was all square and his opponent had a 25 footer for par to halve the hole.
“We needed Cormac’s match to turn around to have a chance but Spain were the better team today and played very well in the qualifying and I have no doubt we will be seeing two or three of them on tour in the next two or three years and doing quite well.
"But I am proud of the lads. They were fantastic and gave it their all this week and played some outstanding and exciting golf all week. They will learn from it and realise the standard that's required to even considering turning pro because these guys, the Spanish in particular, are very very accomplished players. It's the best Spanish team they have had for a number of years."
Looking forward to leading Ireland to victory in the Home Internationals, the captain added: "We have absolutely no complaints and we are gutted in the sense that we didn’t win it having gone so far. But we had a great win over England, who beat Scotland to finish third, and we will be happy when we sit down later to reflect on how well we have done this week. We will move on.
“My understanding that two of the Scots and four of the English team are not playing the Home Internationals but playing the US Amateur Championship. Gavin and Paul are not playing the US Amateur. And while Gavin will not be available for the St Andrews Trophy in Sweden in August because he won’t be released from college, I’d be optimistic we’d have two or three on that team. Gary Hurley caught the eye of the selectors because he had a fantastic week and they can’t ignore Paul Sharvin or Paul Dunne, especially with Paul qualifying for the The Open.”