Rafferty helps Ireland win back Home Internationals

CAOLAN Rafferty helped Ireland win the Home Internationals for the 19th time, and the first since 2017, at Hankley Common Golf Club in England.

The Dundalk Golf Club player contributed 2.5 points out of a possible five in the matches against Scotland, Wales and England as Ireland beat Scotland and Wales and then drew with England to pip the Scots for the title by half-a-point.

“I made my debut in the Home Internationals back in 2017 when we last won and this was my fourth Homes so it was a nice feeling to claim it back for Ireland. Playing for you country is special, but winning for your country is even better,” said Rafferty.

The 28-year-old headed to England last Monday morning full of expectation after an excellent performance in the One Finance sponsored Dundalk Scratch Cup where he was beaten in a play-off by Ireland team-mate Jack McDonnell after both had finished the 36-hole event on seven under par.

“I was looking forward to the Home Internationals after playing nicely on Sunday. It would have been nice to win the Scratch Cup but being in contention again was nice,” said Rafferty.

However, Rafferty was quickly brought down to earth when the Championship started on Wednesday against Scotland. Although Ireland won 8.5 to 6.5, Rafferty and Marc Boucher were beaten 2&1 in the foursomes and Rafferty lost 7&6 to Andrew Ni in the singles.

“In the morning myself and Marc Bouchar struggled to gel early on and we were just a bit off for some reason. We were four down with six to play but got it together, won 13 and 14, and made a push for it at the end, but just had too much to do. 

“In the evening I didn’t play bad at all. I got caught up in the heather a couple of times which led to three bogeys. But the chap I played had a good day and made a heap of birdies which made the scoreline look worse than it actually was.” 

Despite being the team’s most experienced player, Rafferty was dropped for the morning foursomes against Wales and admitted it was a blow.

“Yes, it was a tough one to take and, after being beaten the day before, it knocked the stuffing out of me. But I had to pull it together and be there for the lads because, at the end of the day, it’s a team competition. I was the team advisor that morning which meant I could help the lads out with shots and chat to them along the fairway so that was passed the morning for me.”

His advice certainly reaped dividends as Ireland won the foursomes 3-2 and Rafferty returned to the fray that afternoon in the singles where he was handed the all-important anchor role and beat Tom Matthews 4&3 as Ireland won the singles 8-2 and the match 11-4.

“It’s a role I was asked would I take up this week. Colm Campbell use to be always there so it’s a position that the Irish set-up really focuses on. Obviously, apart from the first day, it paid off in our favour and it was nice to have that trust placed in you to fill such an important position.”

Rafferty was never behind in his match against Matthews with his third birdie of the round closing it out on the 16th.  

“It was nice to have a good win alright. It picked me up a little after the day before and the disappointment of being dropped too.” 

 With Scotland beating England it meant Ireland only need a draw against the defending champions to take the title and deny the English a clean sweep as they had already won the Senior Men’s, Women’s, Boys and Girls Home Internationals. 

“We all fancied our chances of winning the match. We are a strong team which got on very well together and each player wanted to win a point for the next man so it was a great team to be part of.”

However, things did not look good after the morning foursomes as England led 4-1, winning three of the five matches and halving the other two. Rafferty, playing with Sligo’s TJ Ford, got one of those half points despite never being in front against the English pairing of Jack Bigham and Josh Hill and being two down with three to play.

“We were up against it all day and a few missed chances left us with a lot of work to do. On 16 TJ hit a great shot into about 10-12 feet and I held it for birdie. I had just missed a short one on the hole before, so I was making sure I made up for it.”

The 17th was halved in birdie and the Irish came away with a vital point when the English conceded after a dramatic final hole.“The 18th was a disaster for both sides but we just had a bit less of a nightmare. We had 12 feet for par after a wild tee shot and luckily enough for us the English lads hit a worse tee shot and made a six.” 

The Irish faced an uphill battle in the afternoon singles, but they dug deep and rallied and won the session by 6.5 to 3.5 with Rafferty’s 8&7 demolition of the current British Amateur Champion, Laird Shepherd, the undoubted highlight as it showed the most unlikely of comebacks was possible.

Rafferty bossed the match from the first hole and won every hole on the front nine to be nine up at the turn. Although he lost the 10th to a birdie he halved the 11th in par to seal a remarkable victory.

“The first 9 holes where a bit mad. If he made a mistake, I was putting it in the right position to punish him and then, when he was in position, I made birdie and he didn’t. It was a bit surreal if I’m honest because I never have been in that position before.” 

Click here for the full results from the 2021 Home Internationals.

 

Dream debut for Rafferty as Ireland wins Home Internationals

Caolan Rafferty receives a special presentation from Captain Mickey Coburn and Lady Captain Caolan Rafferty to mark his international debut

Caolan Rafferty had a dream international debut last week when he helped Ireland to an historic fourth successive Home Internationals title at Moortown Golf Club in England.

The 24-year-old Dundalk Golf Club player finished as Ireland’s top scorer with five points out of a possible six from the matches against Wales, Scotland and England.

“It was the best week I have had in golf in a long time,” said Rafferty. “To do something as a team was great but to perform as well as I did was extremely satisfying.”

Rafferty had never previously been capped by Ireland at any level and, while he was being tipped for call-up this year, he admitted that he was nervous in the lead-up to the team being finally announced even though he had won the silver medal for leading qualifier at the British Amateur and North of Ireland Championships and reached the last 16 at the British, the last eight at the West of Ireland and the semi-finals of the North as well as leading Leinster to the third successful Inter-provincial title.

“Others boys who were on the fringes did well at the South so I was a little bit apprehensive. I knew they were going for four-in-row and there wouldn’t be many changes to the team so it was nice when the phone-call came although it was hard keeping it quiet for a few days until it was officially announced. It’s been a goal of mine for some time to play for Ireland.”

The Home Internationals involved five foursomes matches each morning followed by 10 singles matches and for Ireland’s opening tie against Wales, Rafferty was partnered with Conor Purcell but they lost 2&1 after getting off to a slow start and finding themselves trailing early on.

“At the team meetings we spoke about the need to get out fast and get up early. Because the standard is so high it is usually one or two small things that decides it.”

Ireland lost the foursomes 4-2 to Matthew Harris and Lewys Sanges so going into the afternoon singles the pressure was on to keep alive their hopes of becoming the first team ever to win four successive Home Internationals titles.

Playing against Jake Hapgood, Rafferty got ahead on the first hole and played steady golf to eventually win 3&1 and pick up his first international point. His team-mates had also bounced back from the morning disappointment and Ireland took the singles 7-3, for an overall 9-6 victory.

The following day against Scotland, Rafferty was paired with Colin Fairweather in the foursomes and it proved to be an inspired choice by team captain Tony Goode as they won 3&2 against Craig Ross and Sam Locke and helped Ireland into a 4-1 lead. Rafferty and Ross met again in the afternoon singles with Rafferty coming from behind to win the last two holes and win by one hole. Ireland won the singles 6-4 and the overall match 10-5.

That set up a showdown with England for the title with the Irish only needing a draw because of their superior point difference.

Playing against Jack Gaunt and David Hague in the foursomes, Rafferty and Fairweather found themselves three down early on but fought back to win 5&3 and give the Irish team a massive lift as they headed into the singles with a narrow 3-2 lead.

“It gave everybody a big lift because a lot of the lads thought we had lost. I have played a lot with Colin over the years and we get on well. We just went about our own jobs and also helped out one another. It was so laid-back we were never flustered.”

With so much on the line, the singles were nail-biting as Ireland looked for the 4½ points they needed to take the title. They got there thanks to three halved matches and three wins with Rafferty delivering one of those victories by beating David Hague 4&3.

“I was two down through three but then I got to work and won four of the next five holes to go two up. After that it was just a case of hitting fairways and greens and keeping him under pressure.”

Rafferty has been inundated with messages of congratulations all week but the texts he was constantly receiving from his father Ciaran were particularly special.

“He been a huge influence on me. It would have been lovely to have had him there but it was nice to know he was following it all at home. My family have been very supportive as has my girlfriend Hayley. They’ve had to put with a lot!

“I’ve also had great support from Dundalk Golf Club and all the members. The club linked up with DKIT at the start of the year to provide fitness training for the elite squad members. It wasn’t something I’d done before but every little bit helps.”

One of the messages he received was from a Dundalk golfer now living in Galway who took the opportunity to congratulate him and offer him the use of his locker at Galway Golf Club where this week’s Irish Close Championship is being held.

That’s the next target for Rafferty before he heads to Colombia for the South American Championship with Tiarnan McLarnon as part of a two man Irish team. Then he’s off to Maynooth University to commence a Business Management course having received one of the Paddy Harrington Golf Scholarships which were set up by Major winner Padraig Harrington in memory of his father.

However, his first week of college will be spent in Prague at the European University Championships before he returns home to defend the Dundalk Scratch Cup he won for the first time last year.

It’s been a season to remember for Rafferty and there are still plenty of opportunities ahead to make it even more memorable.

 

 

 

International call-ups for Rafferty and Murphy

Caolan Rafferty

Caolan Rafferty and Eoin Murphy have been called up to the Ireland teams for this month’s men’s and boys Home Internationals. It will be the first international appearance for both players and is recognition for the excellent seasons that both players have had.

With Josh Mackin having already appeared for the Irish Boys U16 team at the Home Internationals in Wales it means that Dundalk Golf Club has now produced three internationals in the one year,

Rafferty will be part of an Ireland team that is bidding for a fourth successive triumph in the Home Internationals when they tee off at Moortown on August 16. The team will have a chance to create history as no Ireland team has ever won four times in succession.

He is one of two new caps on the team as Irish Amateur Open Champion Peter O’Keeffe from Douglas is also included.

Rafferty has been having his best ever season and, in addition to reducing his handicap to plus five, he finished tied for seventh at the Lytham Trophy and made it to the

Eoin Murphy

last 32 of The Amateur Championship where he also won the silver medal for leading qualifier. He was also leading qualifier at the North of Ireland where he was a beaten semi-finalist and reached the quarter-finals of the West of Ireland. He also helped Dundalk reach the semi-finals of the Barton Shield for the first time won five points out of six as Leinster won their third successive Interprovincial title.

Team captain Tony Goode feels both new caps will strengthen his side. He said: “I’m very happy with the team that we’ve selected. I’m really pleased with the two new caps, Peter O’Keeffe and Caolan Rafferty. They both deserve their place in the team. It is an experienced team and hopefully the boys can bring their A game. You need your A-game at the Home Internationals.”

Murphy is one of seven new caps in the Ireland team for the Boys U18 Home Internationals at St Anne’s Old Links where hosts England will be defending the title they won last year in Ballyliffen. Ireland last won the Boys Home Internationals in 2013.

Murphy, who last year won the Faldo Ireland Series and the Munster Boys Championship, reached the last 16 of the West of Ireland after coming through pre-qualifying and qualifying rounds. He managed top twenty finishes in all the provincial boys championships and then helped Leinster to the Interprovincial title where he won two points from four matches before leading Dundalk to a first ever Fred Daly Leinster title. He was also part of the Barton Shield team.

Ireland team (Home Internationals, Moortown, 16-18 August): Colm Campbell (Warrenpoint), Robin Dawson (Tramore), Colin Fairweather (Knock), Alex Gleeson (Castle), John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead), Rowan Lester (Hermitage), Paul McBride (The Island), Peter O’Keeffe (Douglas), Conor O’Rourke (Naas), Conor Purcell (Portmarnock), Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk)Team Captain: Tony Goode (Lucan), Team Manager: John White (Co Armagh), National Coach: Neil Manchip.

Ireland team (Boys Home Internationals, St Anne’s Old Links, 8-10 August): Reece Black (Hilton Templepatrick), John Brady (Rosslare), Charlie Denvir (Elm Park), Jack Doherty (Carton House), Jack Hearn (Tramore), Ross Kelly (Tuam), Aaron Marshall (Lisburn), Robert Moran (Castle), Eoin Murphy (Dundalk), Mark Power (Kilkenny), Cameron Raymond (Newlands). Team Captain: Cathal McConn (Roscommon). Team Manager: Alasdair Gibson (Knock). National Coach: Neil Manchip.