European Team title regained - Ireland's James Cleary
James Cleary has been one of Ireland's top performers for well over two decades, winning the Munster Matchplay in 2004 and regularly contending at the business end of major domestic championships. James reflected with fippa.org on one of his oustanding achievements to date at Urduna. James was Ireland's second best Strokeplay scorer on 98 behind record breaker Tommy Hanley and contributed an unbeaten (six wins and two halves) seven Matchplay points as the indefatigable Irish got their hands on the new European Team championship trophy.
fippa.org. (Q) You previously played for Ireland in the 2006 Willie Parker Challenge Cup in Holland. How did the European Team championships experience compare?
James Cleary (JC):There was a massive difference between playing in this and the Willie Parker Challenge Cup. No disrespect, but that to me was a friendly celebrating the life of a great PPUI man who gave so much to game and was played as such. This from the opening ceremony, you could tell this was different, we were there to represent all of the PPUI and to win.
Q. You must have been very gratified with the level of support you received from your family, your friends and club colleagues from Hillview?
JC: I can't thank people enough for the support I got. Hillview were amazing in helping me out, but to have my friends and family with me in Urduna to share it with made it even more special.
Q. There appeared to be a great spirit amongst the Irish team?
JC: The atmosphere amongst the whole team was superb. From the minute we met up everyone got along and did whatever was needed to make sure we won. No egos, everyone played for each other, the craic we had was great, it made it so easy to play well because we all played for each other and it showed.
Q. You played extremely well and the Strokeplay qualifying record looked to be in your grasp until that pulled teeshot on the 18th (his 32nd hole of 36) during your second round? You played extremely well and the Strokeplay qualifying record looked to be in your grasp until that pulled teeshot on the 18th during your second round?
JC: I played very well in the Strokeplay and honestly had no idea about the record. I was trying to do the best score I possibly could for the team and paid the price for being a bit too aggressive with the pitch, but I was very happy with the chip back from where the tee shot landed.
Q. Your match with Alex Albinana Junior was one of the highlights of the championship. He’s a very impressive performer, isn’t he?
JC: Alex is an amazing player, great talent and his passion for the game showed. For someone so young he lead by example for his team, never say die attitude even when the overall match was lost he fought so hard for his deserved half, Vamos.
Q. You and JR were a formidable foursomes partnership. Have you played together before?
JC: I've played with JR a few times in competition in last 18's at Scratch Cups and that. JR is so laid back and calm it makes it easy to play well. JR has been in my opinion the best player in the country in the last five years and when you're paired with him it gives you great confidence and we both played very well together.
Q. Gonzalo Mendoza and Toni Armengol gave you a very tough battle in the Andorra match?
JC: The Andorra game was a great battle. We were determined not to lose our unbeaten run and to get a half and keep the team's momentum going was vital especially in the cruel heat on Saturday afternoon.
Q. It was quite a sultry weekend in the Basque Country. How well did you cope with the heat?
JC: The heat was tough especially on Saturday afternoon and Sunday, we were so lucky to have great support with us, don't know how he done it but Weeshie (Murphy) seemed to be at every hole when ever one of us needed a drink, without all the lads' support we would have struggled. We had a great team behind us and all of us were grateful for their support.
Q. How proud are you to be one of 23 different Irish players to win European Team championship medals?
JC: I was just so proud to wear the jersey and represent my country. It was an an amazing experience and to bring back the Cup that we hadn't won in 11 years made it extra special. To say I'm a European champion is an incredible feeling and to achieve it with such a great team is something I'll never forget.
Q. What’s next for James Cleary on the Pitch and Putt course?
JC: To win a National title is the ultimate goal (James has been in five National Matchplay quarter-finals). Playing in this and winning it has given me that extra desire to practise and improve my game to hopefully put myself in the position to win one in the future.