Monday, May 20, 2024

Ireland wins European Nations Cup – News – Irish Golf Desk

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Ireland won the team title at the European Nations Cup for the first time since 2016 and only the second time in their history in Sotogrande yesterday.

Tramore Golf Club’s Jack Hearn held a one-shot lead in the individual standings heading into the final round and while he closed with a three-over 75 to finish three strokes behind Wales’ James Ashfield on two-under, his tie for third was key Ireland snatched the team prize by a single shot.

The team of Hearn, Roganstown’s Sean Keeling, Malone’s Matt McClean and Royal Dublin’s Hugh Foley won the weather-delayed event by the slimmest of margins from Switzerland.

“It was a fantastic performance by the lads and coach Michael Collins this week. It was a great team effort. Everybody contributed to a fantastic team win,” said non-playing team captain Niall MacSweeney.

“In the end, it was a one-shot win, but it was fantastic to do it, go out with the lead, under pressure. Not knowing if we were going to finish because the organisers said if we didn’t finish we would be back tomorrow.”

It was the first Irish win in the event since Alex Gleeson, Stuart Grehan, Jack Hume and Dermot McElroy, won at La Reserva in 2016.

Hearn was bidding to join Padraig Harrington (the inaugural winner of what was then the Sherry Cup in 1991) Rory McIlroy (2007), Shane Lowry (2008) and Hume (2016) as the individual winner but finished on two-under, three shots behind Ashfield, whose 69 gave him a two-stroke win over Scotland’s Gregor Graham on five-under.

Irish Boys champion Keeling finished tied for 17th on seven-over after a 77 with McClean a shot further back in joint 19th after a 71.

Foley, who like Keeling, is coached by Geoff Loughrey at the Made in Holywood Acedemy at Roganstown, shot a final round 73 to tie for 38th on 12-over. 

“Hugh was struggling early on but dug in and ground out a great one over 73; it was a two-under back nine for him this afternoon,” said MacSweeney, who was assisted by coach Michael Collins.

“Matt was one through the turn and turned his round around with a fantastic second into the par-five 14th to three feet, holed the eagle putt.

“Sean had a bit of a difficult stretch around the turn. Then, he was very unlucky; his approach shot hit the bottom of the flag on 11 and spun back out to the front of the green.

“But he finished strong and never gave up and obviously made a significant contribution in rounds one and two.

“Jack was our star man this week, probably personally disappointed not to have closed out the individual win. But nonetheless, a highly respectable tied third. Fantastic play this week from Jack.

“His 71 yesterday was as good a 71 as you will ever see in unbelievably testing conditions. 

“When we were struggling a bit, he hung in there and then finished it off brilliantly with a great up and down on 18. 

“Again today, he finished with four really solid pars to give us the win by the shot.”

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