Dunbar key to Ulster's interpro bid
THE Golfsure men's and boys' interprovincial championships, which start at Ballinrobe Golf Club today, offer the elite players a welcome break from the stress and strain of individual competition.
Former amateurs who relished the challenge of playing for their province include Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Shane Lowry and Paul McGinley, and the current crop of rising stars take the same view. Apart from the title, currently held by Ulster, pride and bragging rights are at stake and the matches are sure to be closely contested.
Today's opening series pits Ulster against Munster, with Leinster playing Connacht. Alan Dunbar, crowned as North of Ireland champion on Saturday, is back in the fray to help Ulster's cause.
Dunbar, who also won the Irish Amateur Open championship last May, is paired with Luke Lennox in the morning foursomes.
The northern side have a strong panel backboned by proven winners. Apart from Dunbar, they can field top tournament winners in West of Ireland champion Rory Leonard, and Lytham Trophy winner Paul Cutler.
Irish Close champion Dara Lernihan and East of Ireland champion Cian Curley are included in the Leinster team.
Munster, the 2007 champions, are always fiery and competitive but they face a big challenge against Ulster.
Connacht, likewise, are the underdogs in their clash with Leinster, as the stats illustrate. In the last 10 stagings of the interprovincials, Ulster have won six times, Leinster three, and Munster once. Connacht's last victory was in 1983.
Leinster are the holders of the boys' interpros and are seeking their third title in four years.
They include three players who played for Ireland in the recent European boys' team championships -- Jeff Hopkins of Skerries, Liam Harnett of Milltown and Stephen Barry of Laytown & Bettystown. The holders open their defence against Munster, while Ulster play Connacht.