Ireland will play Catalonia in an International Challenge for the sixth time this weekend at Lloret Papalus.
The International Challenge was the brainchild of current FIPPA General Secretary Martin Whitelaw. The then President of the ACPP invited the Irish to contest the inaugural International Challenge at his Solius course in 1997.
The Lloret encounter will be the 11th meeting in total of international Pitch and Putt’s most prolific rivals, as the two have also faced off in European championship action (2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2010).
To highlight the appeal of Pitch and Putt as the sport for all (genders, ages and creeds), the teams of twelve for Lloret will feature male and female players, Seniors and Juveniles. The PPUI has added further novelty by selecting a dozen debutants to form the 2014 Ireland team.
Ireland has a well established precedent of selecting ladies for the International Challenge. Marian Byrne and Geraldine Ward played at I.G.B. in 2000. Geraldine was also a member of the Irish teams at Platja d’Aro in 2008 and at Tralee in 2011. Geraldine was joined by Tracey McGrath three years ago. Marian Byrne had a 100% record at I.G.B., winning all three of her matches. Geraldine Ward boasted a 100% record in Ireland but lost all her matches at Platja d’Aro in 2008, as the Catalans recorded their sole victory in the International Challenge to date. Tracey McGrath was unbeaten at Tralee, halving her Fourball match and winning her Foursomes and Singles encounters. At Lloret, Nuria Dalmau, Encarnacion Robledo and Abby Nachson will become the first Catalan lady players to play in the International Challenge. Nuria has previously played against Ireland (for the Rest of Europe in 2005). Maree O’Toole (a former two time Irish Ladies Strokeplay runner-up who first began to play Pitch and Putt in 1970), Martha O’Brien (a former Irish Girls champion and third in the 2011 Irish Ladies Open) and Helen Daly have been selected to represent Ireland for the 2014 match.
Marc Lloret will make a record fifth appearance in the International Challenge at Lloret. That’s a Catalan record and ties Ray Murphy’s overall record. Marc has played in all the matches apart the 1997 Solius event. Marc possesses a 67% record in matches played in Catalonia. He did lose to world champion John Walsh (no disgrace there) at Sant Cebria in 2002 but won his Fourball and Foursomes. Marc Lloret famously defeated Ray Murphy in singles in 2008, having earlier lost his foursomes and won his Fourball.
Daniel Gimenez and Enric Sanz are other Catalans to have previously featured in the International Challenge. Daniel Gimenez won all three of his matches for a 100% record during Catalonia’s landmark 2008 success. Gimenez and Sanz (on his first appearance) actually teamed up for a Fourball success at Tralee in 2011 against 2009 Irish Open winner Frank Dineen and Paul O’Brien (a World Cup and European championship winner with Ireland). They lost their subsequent matches.
Ireland’s two Juvenile protagonists, Conor McCarthy and Shane Redmond won the last two Irish Boys championships. Thy will link up with Catalan counterparts, Marc Ibanyez and Jordi Torrecilla.
A further engrossing chapter of the Catalonia v. Ireland history will be written over the coming two days.
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