A surprise visit from European Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley looked stage managed to inspire Ireland to a first Home Internationals victory for six years.
But while McGinley’s quick lunchtime chat did indeed “gee up the lads” for the final push as they claimed the Triple Crown with a 9.5-5.5 victory over England, it was European skipper who was looking for inspiration for his 13-year old son Killian.
"It was a good golfing education for him," McGinley said with a grin. "We went to get him aspiring to wearing that green jersey as I was free and it was only a two-hour drive."
If there were any doubts that McGinley will be an inspirational captain at Gleneagles next month, they were dispelled at Southerndown in Wales when he met the 11-man Irish team and non-playing captain Pádraig Hogan at lunchtime.
“We didn’t do a photograph because we still had a job to do,” Hogan explained.
Ireland had faltered somewhat in the morning but took a slim 3-2 lead over England into the singles. And while the Raymond Trophy was all but in their grasp as Wales lead nearest rivals Scotland 3-2, meaning it would take an incredible singles collapse to lose the title, they wanted the Triple Crown.
McGinley was well aware of the significance of the occasion having won the Home Internationals with Ireland at another Welsh venue, Conwy, in 1990.
He came to see the team as they had lunch, shook hands with each one and said a few brief words.
"He said it is a great honour to play for your country and it is not very often you get into this position to win the Triple Crown," Hogan revealed. "He said, ‘Just go out and get the job done. It would be nice to beat England to win the Triple Crown.’
"He just said a few words but they were very telling and very important for the lads — a great gee up for them. He was out for about two and a half hours in the afternoon and made a point of watching everybody, which was fantastic."
Paul Dunne was voted the most valuable player after claiming six wins from six while Gary Hurley dropped just half a point and Chris Selfridge only one.
But there were heroes right through the 11-man side with debutants Colm Campbell, Robin Dawson, Richard Bridges and John-Ross Galbraith all playing their part alongside the experienced Jack Hume, Gavin Moynihan, Cormac Sharvin and Dermot McElroy.
Ireland won the singles session 6.5-3.5 but it was by no means as clear cut as the scoreline suggests against an England side that was missing potential team members in Jimmy Mullen, Toby Tree, Paul Howard, Jordan Smith, Sam Horsfield, who had all opted to play in the US Amateur.
The final day line up had been a difficult one for skipper Hogan to decide and it was Stackstown debutant Bridges who drew the short straw and found himself on the sidelines for the entire day as John-Ross Galbraith was given the task of partnering Robin Dawson in the foursomes.
"I had a very tough decision to make last night in leaving Richard out all day,” Hogan explained. “In fairness, he was devastated. But he was fantastic today. He was out from the word go supporting the players.
"I just told him that it was a very tough decision to make and that at the end of the day, you are going home with a Home Internationals championship and a Triple Crown in your first cap. You will realise after a few weeks that it is only the first of many and there are a lot of better days ahead.
"There is no room for sentimentality, unfortunately, when you are trying to win the Triple Crown and it is under your nose. He understood that and he was very happy afterwards.
"As it turned out, the foursomes pairing we made up - Robin and John-Ross — were six under after 10 holes and won 7 and 6. He was gutted and I know how it feels because it happened to me in the European Team Championships in my playing days.
"It is not nice. But he is a great team guy and he understood my position and he was great out there, high-fiving the guys."
Jack Hume and Gavin Moynihan looked certain to put an early point on the board whey went two up after seven holes Tomasz Anderson and European Amateur champion Ashley Chesters. But they were hauled back to all square through 17 and lost on the last.
While Cormac Sharvin and Dermot McElroy beat Brabazon Trophy winner Ben Stow and Ryan Evans 3 and 2, Colm Campbell and Chris Selfridge were also beaten on the 18th.
Galbraith and Dawson restored the balance with a huge 7 and 6 win before Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley, who won 11.5 points out of 12 between them during the week, gave Ireland a narrow 3-2 lead with a 5 and 4 win over Luke Johnson and Paul Kinnear.
“We knew coming over we had a very good team and it was my job to try and get the foursomes pairings right and try and get the order right,” Hogan said.
With Dunne winning six points out of six to succeed McElroy in winning the best individual award and Hurley and Selfridge dropping just one and a half points between them, Ireland had too much firepower in the end in the singles.
“This afternoon, Gavin and Jack came out very fast and got off to a great start and were both three up through nine and won comfortably in the end,” Hogan said of his top two in the single order.
Still, it was tight in the end as five of the last eight matches went to the 17th or 18th.
While McElroy would lose by one hole, Selfridge grabbed an unlikely win against Stow, who hit out of bounds on the final hole.
“He looked like he is losing off his tee shot but in the end both of them ended up taking penalty drops and then Stow hit out of bounds, which made this easier,” the captain said.
“It was getting tight to get across the line and then J.R. came from three down with six to play and finished very strongly to get a halved match.”
While Dawson lost 5 and 4 and Campbell by 4 and 3, the experience of Sharvin, Dunne and Hurley at the back of the order proved crucial as they all won inside the distance.
Ireland’s three-man team for next month’s Eisenhower Trophy in Japan will be announced on Monday and with all the players available for selection, it would appear likely that Gavin Moynihan, Paul Dunne and Gary Hurley will get the call.
With Great Britain and Ireland captain Nigel Edwards also in attendance at Southerndown, several Irish players will be considered for the St Andrews Trophy team, which will also be announced on Monday.
While Moynihan and Dunne are unavailable due to college commitments, Selfridge and Hurley must surely have a great chance of a call up.
Hogan will step down as captain in February but will still have a say in picking next year’s Senior panel before the new captain is announce following the GUI AGM. Just how many changes there will be remains to be seen. With Reeve Whitson and Richard O’Donovan already in the professional ranks, several others may follow with the likes of McElroy and Hume contemplating a trip to the European Tour Qualifying School.
If they are successful and win cards for either of the tours, they may jump ship. If not, both may fancy their chances of pushing for Walker Cup selection with the matches scheduled for Royal Lytham and St Annes.
Wales finished second thanks to an 8-7 win over Scotland, who where third ahead of England.
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