Promising start by Ireland


There were few assumptions but a number of expectations yesterday in the opening day of the Women's Home International Championship at Carlow.

To Ireland's credit those expectations were realised as they came in 6-3 winners over Wales. Today's match against favourites England will be of a different complexion but last night Ireland, who last won the tournament in 1986, relished what was a satisfying day's play and one that could have offered up even more.

The experienced Alison Coffey (Warrenpoint), Hazel Kavanagh (Grange) and Eileen Rose Power (Kilkenny) won their singles matches in the afternoon to add three points to the halved matches involving Ireland's Elaine Dowdall and 19-year-old Martina Gillen.

Both of the halved singles could easily have slipped Ireland's way. Dowdall recovered sweetly for par after fluffing a six-iron off the tee on the par three 17th to go one up down the 18th but was pegged back with a match saving 30-foot putt from Sara Mountford.

Gillen tumbled from being three holes up with four to play. Her Curtis Cup and Vagliano Trophy opponent, Becky Brewerton, finally cranked up her game to finish birdie, birdie, par, birdie to snatch half a point.

Coffey, at three up after nine holes, and Power, who went five up after six holes, were a steadying influence throughout but it was the business management student Gillen that non-playing captain Eavan Higgins singled out as making an important contribution to what was a comfortable scoreline.

"Martina's match was the match to get something out of," said Higgins. "She did well to get into that position, three up with four to play. That was very good for a 19-year-old. A win there would have been brilliant. We played her in that match because she is the only one to match her (Brewerton) off the tee.

"Wales won this two years ago and they finished well ahead of us in the European Team Championships in Spain so it was a good win for us. The Irish team's confidence is high but England have seven players on the Britain and Ireland team, we have one. It's going to be very tough."

So, today's test against England - who beat Scotland 51/2-31/2 in their opening match - is pivotal for the home side.

Like Ireland, England moved from a 2-1 advantage after the morning foursomes but finally finished with a less emphatic overall advantage. The title holders won three of the afternoon singles and halved one match.

Ominously Rebecca Hudson shot an equivalent three under par, Kim Andrew two under par and Kirsty Fisher an impressive five under par in their afternoon rounds. Food for thought for Ireland in those cards.