Showing their support for Shane Lowry at Esker Hills GC. Front row, L-R: Dermot Egan, Offaly Sports Partnership, Tom Shanahan, Offaly County Council (OCC), Cllr Declan Harvey, Cathaoirleach OCC, Anna Marie Delaney, Chief Executive OCC, Cllr Tony McCormack, Cathaoirleach Tullamore MD, Cllr Sean O’Brien. Back row, L-R: Cllr Danny Owens, Ray Molloy, Esker Hills, Stephane Duclot, OCC, Olive Farrelly, Tourism Officer, and Cllr Frank Moran.

Excitement and pride as Lowry tees off at Ryder Cup

In every corner of Offaly, the excitement is building as Shane Lowry prepares to break new ground in his magnificent golfing journey by teeing off at the Ryder Cup today (Friday).

Throughout the weekend the eyes of sports enthusiasts locally and nationally will be very much focused on events at the Whistling Straits course in Wisconsin, about 3,500 miles, give or take, from Shane's native Clara.

Ray Molloy of Esker Hills Golf Club, the course where Shane learned his craft, said there was a great sense of anticipation ahead of the 43rd contest between Europe and the US.

"We thought, of old, that it wouldn't get better after Shane won the Irish Open. Then when the British Open win came, ten years later, we thought it couldn't get better again. This is pushing out the boat another little bit further. He is representing Europe and very few people from Ireland have been in the Ryder Cup over the last 60 years," Ray told the Offaly Independent.

"We now have one of our own there, who learned his golf in Esker Hills, and whose family plays in Esker Hills, so we're absolutely delighted. We just hope that things will fall for him and that Europe wins."

Ray said Shane Lowry's successes were already helping to bring more golf enthusiasts into Offaly. "Over the last fortnight, we have been very busy in the golf club. There are more people around wanting to see the course that Shane Lowry has come from.

"We had a few Americans in this week who wanted to see Shane Lowry's course. It's a huge bonus for Esker Hills and a huge bonus for Tullamore town and Offaly. The economy is gaining out of it, and will gain in the future."

Esker Hills is holding open competitions today (Friday) and Sunday to mark Shane's appearance at the Ryder Cup. Ray said there would be some people watching the action at the clubhouse but most preferred to watch it at home.

The structure of the Ryder Cup competition was something that he believed would play to Shane's strengths.

“He’s a good matchplayer - he played a lot of matchplay competitions during his junior days - and that will suit him. Because he’s so likeable, I’d say all of the guys in the team will want to be playing with Shane in the foursomes, but that will be down to (team captain) Padraig Harrington to decide.

“If Shane was to amass a few points it would be a great lift for Offaly. He knows all about team-playing from the GAA, and from his father’s time, so that will help him.”

Local TD and fellow Clara native Barry Cowen said there was great sense of pride throughout the county and region at Shane Lowry’s achievements.

“He is such a popular, outgoing chap and that endears him to people even more. It’s another box ticked for him (to make the Ryder Cup) and hopefully now he will play as well as we know that he can and participate in a winning team,” he said.

When asked what it was that made Shane such a popular figure, the TD replied: “It’s his down-to-earth nature, his love of his country, love of sport, love of GAA.

“He comes from a large family and both of his parents came from large families. They’re of the community, part of it, and very participative in their respective communities of Clara and Ferbane. He is very grounded and that’s very evident in how he carries himself.”

The Fianna Fáil representative also spoke about the importance of sport in people’s lives, particularly after such difficult last 18 months.

“There’s a great sense of excitement in the county as a result of the (U20) footballers’ win, and the anticipation that they can go on and do more,” he said.

“There’s a confidence that you can see, a swagger in the players themselves. It couldn’t be better-placed, to be coming out of a pandemic and into that sort of excitement and anticipation.”

Earlier this week, local representatives and officials from Offaly County Council paid a visit to the Esker Hills club to show their support for Shane ahead of the start of the Ryder Cup.

The Cathaoirleach of Offaly County Council, Declan Harvey, and Tullamore Municipal District Cathaoirleach, Tony McCormack, both wished Shane the very best at this weekend’s event. They spoke about the joy his success had brought to the county and hoped it would continue to encourage others to partake in golf.

Chief Executive Anna Marie Delaney also congratulated Shane on reaching the Ryder Cup and said the whole county was behind him.