The following is a reproduced version of an interview both John Ross Crangle and Eamon Gibney did for the FIPPA website with John Manning following their qualification for representing Ireland alongside John Walsh on the World Cup team in Andorra this weekend.
John Ross Crangle who tasted World Cup victory with Ireland in 2012 is back on the Irish side, which will defend in Andorra. Eamon Gibney will make his international debut at the World Cup in July. A trip to Andorra was definitely one of JR's 2016 goals. "Yes, I was very determined to make the team again; I don't think anyone lucky enough to represent their country in any sport wants to play just the one time. Having had a taste for the international team game in 2012, it was easy to get myself in a motivated and determined mood for the trial."
That May 21st trial was at Portmarnock, one of Ireland's foremost links courses. Crangle was delighted with his performance that day. "I'll be honest and say I really surprised myself. Portmarnock really suited me too as I like that style of play, mixing it up hitting punch shots and high pitches," sums up JR. The trialists initially played 36 holes and then the players were re-paired in reverse order of scoring for a final 18. John Ross fired 89 for the opening 36 to build up a healthy cushion but there was no complacency. "Having a four shot lead going into the last round I still knew I needed to put up a good score as it was very easy to switch off. With such a good quality field behind me I knew could not let them back in as they all know how to shoot low scores and how to win competitions. Portmarnock was in fantastic condition as usual and when you are playing a course in such good condition with perfect greens it's all about belief in your own ability and confidence in your shots."
JR is eagerly looking forward to teaming up again with 2012 World Cup winner John Walsh, who earned the wild card selection on the back of his two Irish championship wins in 2015. "What more can I say about John Walsh that hasn't been said. Four years ago he was a tremendous asset for the team as he is such a strong player. Since then you could say he has somehow improved even more winning three of the last four national titles and I think irrespective of how he played in the trial he was pretty much a certainty for the team with his recent record," is the Loughlinstown star's fulsome tribute to the current Irish No. 1.
In contrast to the Catalan training camp at Xixerella, Ireland's practice regime has been relatively low key. "Unfortunately, with work it is hard to get the time off for a trip to Andorra especially with such a small time frame to the finals. I was never one for practicing much so a couple of rounds around the course the week of the World Cup will be something I would be familiar with in other tournaments abroad and in Ireland." Can Ireland retain the title? "Yes, but going for the hat trick will not be easy especially with the longer style course in Xixerella. All three of us though have a lot of experience playing with three clubs in International Opens and European/World Championships over the years so I would be fairly confident of Ireland giving it a real good go again this year."
JR articulately sums up the prospects of some of the principal contenders in Andorra. "With the European Championships on the course two years ago the winning Catalonia team will no doubt be the big danger to us. In saying that, we respect every other country participating especially with it being a three-person team as some countries sometimes lack depth in their squads but the smaller team certainly levels the field a bit. We know only too well that if we have an off day and we could be out. The hosts Andorra, Galicia and of course the beaten finalists two years ago Holland will no doubt be right in the mix and will quietly fancy their chances." Since the interview, circumstances have dictated that the Dutch won’t play in Andorra.
Eamon Gibney is absolutely delighted to make the step up to international team play. "It was such a thrill and surprise to qualify because I was hoping going to Portmarnock that I wouldn't disgrace myself playing against all the best players," reflects the Castletown clubman rather modestly. All players like an empathetic fellow competitor. Eamon is no exception. "I was extremely lucky that I was drawn to play with a gentleman in Ian Dillon for the first two rounds and I knew we would be rooting for each other as we get on very well."
A high placing in the PPUI national rankings secured Eamon's place in the trial but he was very cognisant of the opportunity. "I also felt privileged and lucky to be invited to play in the trials in front of dozens of other great players." His final round partner was also fortuitous. "I was lucky to be playing with Ray Murphy in the playoff round as I thought if I was able to keep close to his score that I would have a great chance to qualify. I had never played with Ray before so wasn't sure what to expect but he really is a pleasure to play with and he was encouraging me all the way round."
Just like his new team mate Crangle, Eamon's preparation plans are pragmatic and low key. "As regards practice I don't plan on doing anything else other than the usual." Gibney feels he will have few issues fitting into the Ireland set-up. "I have played a few times with both players (John and JR) and we would always have a chat at tournaments so I would say we get on well." John Ross Crangle has no doubt that Eamon Gibney will be a worthy addition to Ireland's ranks of international players.
"I have known Eamon for few years and have all the time in the world for him. A gentleman, on and off the course, but he has a very steely determination about him. I was delighted to see him win in Glenville at the Irish Open and then once again he showed his class by finishing with that final round (44) in the trial with so many quality players on the same score (after 36). A top class performer."
Tomorrow: We look at Ireland’s previous showings in World Cup competitions.
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