Tuesday 17 September 2019

Egan 'home' at Lahinch for Ireland debut

Special: Keith Egan makes his International debut at Lahinch. Photo: Pat Cashman
Special: Keith Egan makes his International debut at Lahinch. Photo: Pat Cashman

Making your international debut is a special occasion but it promises to be even more memorable for Carton House's Keith Egan when he pulls on the green jersey in the Home Internationals at Lahinch next week.

It's been a magical year for the Co Clare links following July's sensational Dubai Duty Free Irish Open but having staged a historic Home Internationals in 1987, when Ireland captured the Triple Crown for the first time, Lahinch is the perfect venue for Egan's international bow.

"I am just delighted," said the 26-year old Kildare man, who is one of four new caps in the side with Naas' Robert Brazill, Malone's Matthew McClean and the 16-year-old Holywood boy wonder Tom McKibbin.

"My goal at the start of the year was to make this team because it was at Lahinch. I love the club, and I love the town and the people.

"The people down there make it very special every time I go down for the South. And I just fell in love with the golf course as well."

Egan might have won an automatic spot on the team had he not fallen to Sean Desmond in the South of Ireland final this year.

But having achieved his goal of playing for Ireland, his appearance in the 11-man Irish team could prove the making of a player who learned the game at The Curragh alongside his father Alan, a former Seniors international.

While a championship win remains a huge goal, helping Ireland lift the Raymond Trophy for the fifth time in six years would be a special memory - especially at a venue where the heroes of '87 are still revered.

"Representing Ireland is something that not everybody gets to do," said Egan, who works in the fitness industry having been inspired to go down that road by his older brother Tom, who was the first Irishman to mixed martial arts fighter to compete in the UFC in 2009.

"Who knows what the future holds, so I am treating it as a once in a lifetime opportunity."

There was surprise that Douglas' Peter O'Keeffe failed to retain his place and disappointment also for Hermitage's Rowan Lester, who won five-and-a-half points from six in Leinster's Interprovincial Championship success in Tullamore last week.

But the side is strong on paper with Co Sligo's Sean Flanagan (currently at Portmarnock) returning to the fold after a three-year absence following a strong summer and the precocious McKibbin just four months older than Rory McIIroy was when he made his debut at 16 in 2005.

Belfast born McClean (26) was fourth in the Order of Merit behind automatic qualifiers Brazill, Colm Campbell and Irish Close champion Ronan Mullarney and with the side completed by the Walker Cup trio of Amateur champion James Sugrue, West of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty and reigning Australian Amateur champion Conor Purcell, there are high hopes of another Triple Crown at Lahinch.

That 1987 win - which was achieved by Neil Anderson, Eddie Power, Garth McGimpsey, Liam MacNamara, Mark Gannon, Barry Reddan, Padraig Hogan, Denis O'Sullivan, Arthur Pierse, Paul Rayfus and a 19-year old Darren Clarke - was one of the highlights in a memorable year for Irish golf.

Not only did Ireland win the European Amateur Team Championship in Murhof with Eoghan O'Connell and John McHenry, Eamonn Darcy won a decisive point in Europe's first Ryder Cup win at Muirfield Village.

The 2019 season will be remembered for Shane Lowry's Open Championship win and Lahinch may merit not one honorable mention but two if Ireland can deliver another Raymond Trophy.

Home Internationals Lahinch, September 11-13

Teams (world ranking), * Denotes 2019 GB&I Walker Cup team member

Ireland: Rob Brazill (Naas, 347), Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint, 1009), Keith Egan (Carton House, 363), Sean Flanagan (Portmarnock, 692), Matthew McClean (Malone, 268), Tom McKibbin (Holywood, 304), Tiarnán McLarnon (Massereene, 261), Ronan Mullarney (Galway, 67), Conor Purcell (Portmarnock, 23)*, Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk, 29)*, James Sugrue (Mallow, 59)*

England: Jake Burnage (49), Callum Farr (122), Bailey Gill (89), Harry Hall (81)*, Ben Hutchinson (86), Ben Jones (32), Matty Lamb (216), Joshua McMahon (150), Tom Plumb (154)*, Ben Schmidt (14), Tom Sloman (39)*

Scotland: George Burns (675), Kieran Cantley (357), Matt Clark (455), Stuart Easton (365), Darren Howie (703), Lewis Irvine (1340), Ryan Lumsden (217), Connor McKinney (242), Euan McIntosh (206), Eric McIntosh (968), James Wilson (491).

Wales: George Bryant (1895), Ben Chamberlain (348), Jacob Davies (892), Rhys Evans (1826), Tom Froom (977), Jake Hapgood (513), Kieron Harman (1239), Connor Jones (3547), Matt Roberts (718), Lewys Sanges (934), Gaelen Trew (557).

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