Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

No home winner, but still much to savour at Irish Open

Now that the Irish Open is over, Darren Clarke's attention will turn to his defence of the Claret Jug at Lytham
Now that the Irish Open is over, Darren Clarke's attention will turn to his defence of the Claret Jug at Lytham

So no fairytale Ulster win at the first Irish Open to be played at Royal Portrush for over 60 years.

Final total: Rory McIlroy ended up as the best placed Ulsterman

But there was plenty for our boys to be positive about as they leave Royal Portrush.

Rory McIlroy's blemish free 66 earned him a tied tenth place finish, on top of the Ulster mini-leaderboard.

Graeme McDowell will always regard the bush at the back of 17 with a wry smile after losing a ball there on the opening day to put him on the back foot for the tournament. But he dug deep to make the cut on Friday even though he left himself just too much to do over the weekend to make a real impression.

For Darren Clarke the week was a triumph and he enjoyed every minute of it.

His name was on every other player's lips as he played the part of unofficial host to complete perfection. Now he can put off course duties aside and concentrate on his defence of the Claret Jug at Lytham.

It might all have worked out very differently for Michael Hoey had he held it together on the back nine on Saturday. Within two of the lead at one stage, he slipped away and was never in position to make a late charge.

Simon Thornton finished in a tie for 33rd with a grandstand finish of birdies on both 17 and 18.

Even the men who failed to make the cut will all have taken away some incredible memories from the event.

Certainly for the four amateurs Dermot McElroy, Harry Diamond, Patrick McCrudden and Alan Dunbar, it will have been an experience never to forget.

Ballymena lad McElroy came within a birdie putt of making the weekend and his is a name — albeit an easy one — to remember for the future.

Belfast's Damian Mooney will undoubtedly be back at Carton House next year to try again to make a second Irish Open cut while Chris Devlin, based in the US, thoroughly enjoyed a rare trip back home, even if he was disappointed to miss out on the weekend by one shot.

But if there was real disappointment it was Gareth Maybin who gave up his shot to qualify for the Open by turning up early on Monday only to shoot two rounds of 75.

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