Saturday 24 August 2019

'They have represented Offaly more than anyone' - The Lowry family deliver sporting history once again

Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates with his parents Bridget and Brendan Lowry, brother Alan and sister Sinead with the Claret Jug, with his wife Wendy Horner and daughter Iris, left, after winning The Open Championship on Day Four of the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Portrush, Co Antrim. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Shane Lowry of Ireland celebrates with his parents Bridget and Brendan Lowry, brother Alan and sister Sinead with the Claret Jug, with his wife Wendy Horner and daughter Iris, left, after winning The Open Championship on Day Four of the 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush in Portrush, Co Antrim. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

FOR a county housing less than 80,000 people, it's incredible to think that Offaly has crafted two of the most memorable sporting moments in Ireland's storied history with one name – Lowry – being at the forefront of both.

The midlands is still rejoicing after Shane Lowry became 2019's 'Champion Golfer' by lifting the famous Claret Jug – renamed the Clara Jug in honour of his hometown – as the 148th winner of the Open Championship by a scarcely believable six shots in Portrush.

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Banking a winners' cheque of €1.72 million and climbing to 17th in the world rankings, Lowry etched his place in sporting folklore 37 years after his father Brendan, and uncles Seán and Mick, helped end Kerry's dreams of five All-Ireland SFC titles in a row.

While Seamus Darby's famous shot past Charlie Nelligan is detailed every time the 1982 final is recalled, Brendan also played a crucial part as the all-action corner-forward fired over three first-half points to leave them in a position to pickpocket the Kingdom.

Much like Offaly's defeat to Kerry in the previous year's decider, Shane had endured heartbreak at the US Open in Oakmount three years ago when relinquishing a four-shot lead on the final day, but neither hesitated when the chance arose again.

Brendan turned 60 last Friday and was given the perfect birthday gift by his eldest son but for him, "there's no comparison" in terms of emotion when one of your own achieve something of this magnitude, particularly on the world stage.

There was no need for a Darby moment to clinch it at the death as Lowry shot a course record 63 to leave himself in pole position by Saturday evening, before showing nerves of steel with wind and rain unable to halt his gallop to the 72nd and final hole on Sunday.

Offaly hurling legend Joe Dooley has golfed with Lowry several times with both members of the Esker Hills Club in Tullamore, which can now call itself home to a Major champion.

Dooley tracked Lowry in Lahinch a few weeks back at the Irish Open and speaks of a family steeped in sporting royalty, with Shane's ascension to the top of the golfing world no surprise to the three-time All-Ireland winner as ice cool veins are "in the genes".

"When you talk about football in Offaly, the Lowrys have represented Offaly on more occasions than any other family. They're all very grounded and down to earth and Shane is just a copy and paste from the lads," Dooley said.

"We don't realise how lucky we are to have him and Sunday was like the morning of an All-Ireland final. Everyone was on edge, we knew he had a great chance but he still had to go out and do it. Winning All-Irelands is one thing but the level he is at is totally different.

"He's producing the goods all by himself. To think that he could come from a small club and be on top of the golfing world, it's unreal. And he's still the same Shane Lowry as when he won the Irish Open as an amateur ten years ago."

The lyrics of That's Joe Dooley' – an iconic 90's song sung to the tune of Dean Martin's 'That's Amore' in ode of the hurler's brilliance – have even been altered to herald Lowry's ground-breaking achievement.

It is lean times in the Faithful county with Offaly relegated to the Christy Ring Cup – hurling's third tier – and their footballers operating from Division 3 in the League but Lowry is flying the flag. In his own words, he "was always a bit too slow for the big ball”.

But despite leaving the GAA in his teens when falling in love with the small white ball after a game of pitch and putt, his love of the GAA has always shone bright with former Faithful hurler Michael Duignan highlighting his love of everything Offaly.

As chair of the fundraising committee for the Faithful Fields, Offaly GAA's state of the art training facilities, Duignan called on Lowry to help out and he delivered in spades for a Golf Classic and Gala Dinner which raised €100,000.

"He organised the prizes, bought auction prizes, was there all day, went around in a buggy and met ever single team on both courses. He shook hands with them and chatted them, got pictures with them and then went to the dinner," Duignan recalled.

"He did a Q&A that night and left in the early hours and pretty much went straight to the airport to fly to Austin, Texas at six in the morning to prepare for a tournament.

"He said 'I'd do anything for Offaly GAA but I want it to be significant' and was there from eight in the morning until two the following morning, it was just incredible to see the generosity of time and financially. I couldn't speak highly enough of him."

All sorts of doors have been opened for Lowry with next year's Ryder Cup and more Major success on his radar, his life has changed forever but the humility of the 32-year-old never will.

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