Irish caps up for grabs as Tullamore hosts Interpros
Home Internationals spots add extra motivation
Winning a championship is one of the greatest achievements in amateur golf but team camaraderie and the chance to don the Irish blazer in next month's Home Internationals at Lahinch will inspire the 32 men set to do battle in next week's Men's Interprovincial Championship at Tullamore.
The action runs from August 28-30, and while Munster will be chasing back-to-back titles for the first time since 1997, the Irish selectors will be eagerly looking to see who can round out their team for the battle for the Raymond Trophy from September 11-13.
Naas talent Robert Brazill, Galway's Irish Close champion Ronan Mullarney and Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell are guaranteed spots after they filled the top three spots in the Bridgestone Order of Merit.
While Amateur champion James Sugrue and his Walker Cup teammates Caolan Rafferty and Conor Purcell are also certain to play in Lahinch, there is still time for players to force their way into the 11-man Irish team with a big performance in Tullamore.
Connacht's Sean Flanagan must have a great chance of a return to the Irish team following his run to the semi-finals of the South and the quarter-finals of the "Close", where he lost to the eventual champion on both occasions.
Carton House's Keith Egan, who was fifth in the Bridgestone Order of Merit, will need to back up a great season by taking some scalps while his Leinster teammates Alan Fahy and Robert Moran and Ulster's Matthew McClean, who was narrowly edged out by Campbell for the last automatic berth, also have a chance to make their mark.
With Kilkenny's Mark Power and Kinsale's John Murphy heading to the US for college commitments, there are several Irish caps up for grabs and bar a move to blood some of the outstanding Boys this year - Max Kennedy, Joshua Hill and Tom McKibbin, to name just three - the Interpros should settle all arguments.
Munster, who will be looking to Waterford's Eanna Griffin to stake his claim to an Irish cap with a big week, beat the champions Leinster 6.5-4.5 last year, winning five and a half points from seven in the singles to deny them a fourth successive title.
"There is massive rivalry among the provinces," said returning Munster captain Michael Coote, who has six of last year's side for the trip to Tullamore. "Leinster are always the ones to beat.
"It was a sweet, sweet victory. For the players, the Interpros is a huge thing."
The three Walker Cup caps will be on their way to Hoylake but veteran Pat Murray, now playing out of Clontarf, returns for Munster who have also called on South of Ireland winner Sean Desmond from Monkstown and Fota Island's Greg O'Mahony.
Tiarnan McLarnon, who was Ireland's leading player in the Home Internationals last year, spearheads an Ulster side hoping to end a six-year wait for victory while Connacht will look to Close champion Mullarney and the veteran Joe Lyons to lead from the front.
Leinster are strong yet again with new Naas star Brazill joined by the returning Fahy and Moran, and new caps Gerard Dunne from County Louth and Royal Dublin's Hugh Foley.
Hermitage's Rowan Lester returns after a two-year absence due to US college commitments and as he battles to find his best form after injury, he may need a big week to make the Irish team for Lahinch while former international Paul O'Hanlon, the East of Ireland runner-up, makes his first appearance in the event since 2008.
Connacht: Sean Flanagan (Portmarnock), TJ Ford (Co Sligo), Harry Gillivan (Westport), Allan Hill (Athenry), Joe Lyons (Galway), Jack McDonnell (Forest Little), Ronan Mullarney (Galway), Simon Walker (Roscommon).
Leinster: Paul O'Hanlon (Carton House), Keith Egan (Carton House), Rob Brazill (Naas), Rowan Lester (Hermitage), Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin), Alan Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), Robert Moran (Castle), Gerard Dunne (Co Louth).
Munster: Cathal Butler (Kinsale), Sean Desmond (Monkstown), Eanna Griffin (Waterford), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock), Pat Murray (Clontarf), Andrew McCormack (Castletroy), Peter O'Keeffe (Douglas), Greg O'Mahony (Fota Island).
Ulster: Reece Black (Hilton Templepatrick), Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle), Matthew McClean (Malone), Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu), Tiarnán McLarnon (Massereene), William Small (Tandragee), Rory Williamson (Holywood).