Irish spy battles Hurricane Ike

Irish greenkeeper Paul O'Donoghue battled last night to repair Valhalla from the effects of Hurricane Ike and keep his Ryder Cup dream alive.

But despite the Meath man's efforts to get the course back into shape,  the home town support plans to whip up a storm of its own later this week that could help skipper Paul Azinger blow Team Europe away.

US Ryder Cup organisers have decided to set up a huge pep rally in downtown Louisville on Thursday night with Azinger roared on by  cheerleaders, a pep band and confetti cannons.

But the real inspiration will come in a speech by legendary University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, who tragically lost his brother in law and best friend in the 9/11 attacks on New York's Twin Towers.

Pitino, 55, is famous for his motivational talks, urging players to believe: "Failure is good. It's fertilizer. Everything I've learned about coaching, I've learned from making mistakes."

This could be Azinger's answer to Brookline in 1999, when US President George W Bush gave the US team a speech about the Alamo on the eve of the singles.

O'Donoghue, 22, will miss the rally as he puts the finishing touches to the course at Valhalla, where he has been working on an international programme for the past seven months.

And he had his work cut out of repair the damage caused by Sunday night's storm,  when winds gusting up to 78 mph wreaked havoc at the course and left 1 million households in the Ohio-Kentucky area without power.

An army of tree surgeons was called in yesterday to clear up the damage the tree-lined course and haul away the trees as high winds from Hurricane Ike left about 1 million households and businesses without electricity.

Schools were closed yesterday and rush-hour commuters faced an obstacle courses of fallen trees and intersections without working traffic signals.

Surveying the damage on Sunday, O'Donoghue said:  "The course was beautiful up until about an hour ago. A TV tower dropped onto the 12th green, which is one of mine. I look after holes 10, 11 and 12. It was perfect and 10 minutes ago got a call to say the tower was lying on the green.

O'Donoghue and his co-workers lovingly patched up the scars on the 460-yard 12th, replacing the most severely damaged areas at the back of the green with new sod and using hole plugs to repair the smaller marks.

He added: "It could be worse. I’m not happy with it. It would still be visible but we will make sure it’s not causing bumps or an uneven roll. It should be okay. We’ve good five days of ideal growing weather before the Ryder Cup starts. We weren’t planning on working late but we will be now."

Enfield native O'Donoghue failed to get a ticket for the 2006 Ryder Cup at the K Club but vowed to his brother that he would be at the next one.

After falling in love with landscaping, he completed a Bachelor of Science in Horticulture and Turf Grass and after gaining experience building Rathcore with former GAA great Mick Lyons, he earned a placement on the Ohio State Programme for international students.

Now he's an integral part of the 2008 Ryder Cup, despite the fact that his colleagues jokingly call him the spy in the camp.

But as one of the few Europeans on the staff, O'Donoghue has no idea how fast the green will be running, explaining: "I’m not sure. They won’t tell me because I am European."