PAUL McGINLEY can rely on advice and support from some of Gaelic football's greatest managers when he leads Europe into action at the 2014 Ryder Cup.
McGinley was still walking on air following his appointment this week as skipper of the home team at Gleneagles.
Even a disappointing first-round 76 at the Abu Dhabi Championship failed to dampen his good humour and it was revealing to see the 46-year-old Dubliner beaming broadly as he walked onto the final green after such a difficult day at the office.
"I'm absolutely thrilled about what's happened and thrilled about the way it's been received by the rest of the players and so many other people," he explained.
"To be honest, if I hadn't been appointed Ryder Cup captain I probably would never have known the esteem a lot of people have held me in."
He laughed out loud when someone compared it to getting a favourable obituary without having to die. "Yeah, that's a great way of putting it," said McGinley, who has received nearly 500 congratulatory texts. "It's amazing, I didn't know so many people had my number."
Revealing one had arrived from Tyrone's iconic All-Ireland-winning coach Mickey Harte, McGinley, who played Gaelic football until a dislocated kneecap cut short his career in his late teens, said: "He's a man I've never met but one I've greatly admired. I'll be contacting him.
"I look forward to meeting him but not until after Tyrone play Donegal in the first round of the Ulster football championship," joked McGinley, a close friend of Donegal boss Jimmy McGuinness through his father, Mick, a native of that county.
Since his team's victory in last September's All-Ireland final, McGuinness has been asked by Celtic manager Neil Lennon to advise his players on fitness, while McGinley insists: "I'll certainly be having words with Jimmy."
Ballyclare favourite Gareth Maybin was the only Irish player to break par yesterday, shooting 71 for a share of 16th on one-under-par as the desert winds blew their hardest after lunch.
The Dubliner revealed he felt so good about his game, he became a little too aggressive for his own good on this treacherous course.
Harrington shared 32nd with Peter Lawrie and Michael Hoey, the Ballymoney man bravely defying a painful back injury sustained when he fell on wet tiles walking to the swimming pool at his Abu Dhabi hotel.
Damien McGrane had two costly double-bogey sevens in his 76, while Shane Lowry slumped to a 78 after birdies on his first two holes. Darren Clarke had 34 putts as he shot 79.