Shane Lowry lifting the Claret Jug in Portrush today will go down as one of the greatest moments in Irish sport. Seeing the tricolour flutter in the rainy north Antrim breeze, hearing the chants of 'Olé', watching Shane Lowry, the epitome of everything we truly value in a sportsman, play remarkable, fearless, emotive golf over the last four days turned this event into the Irish Open.
Carnoustie and Royal Birkdale and Royal St Georges were famous days for Irish golf. These past four days at Portrush were something different, something bigger for this island.
Politicians are always quick to drape themselves around the success of sports stars but in the case of the 2019 Open, politicians across the divide deserve so much praise for seeing the potential of this tournament. It's worth remembering just how much political will was involved in getting this tournament to Ireland. It proved what the people on this island are capable of, and all that we stand to lose.
This week's UK Independent featured a detailed write-up on the political heavy-lifting involved in bringing the Open to Ireland. It reads like a dispatch from a different time. Sinn Fein and the DUP worked together along with the diligent staff of Portrush and the extended Northern Irish golf community to convince the R&A that Portrush was capable of hosting this tournament.
It's worth emphasising that this tournament wasn't just the work of some unionist golf elite over the border. Sinn Fein, in particular Martin McGuinness, played a massive role in making this happen.
Martin McGuinness's leadership in the process was repeatedly mentioned in the article. First by Arlene Foster:
“Martin McGuinness came up to Portrush on a number of occasions. Being a divided society, you can only deliver an event of this scale if you have the support of everyone.”
And also by confidante Mairtin O’Muilleoir:
“He realised bringing The Open to Portrush wasn’t about golf at all. The real prize was trying to create a reconciled, peaceful country and show the world this is a place which can be transformed.”
Portrush ladies captain Liz McCartney told the Irish Times that McGuinness's name came up again in the final days before the tournament
“I was sitting beside Martin Slumbers, who is the chief executive of the R&A, the other night,” says McCartney, “and he gave a lot of credit to [the former deputy first minister] Martin McGuinness. He said he thought it was a real shame he wasn’t here to see it.”
One presumes McGuinness would have enjoyed today's festivities
How proud would Martin McGuinness have been to have seen an Irish man win the Open in Portrush? Unbelievable!
— Mickey Donnelly (@MickeyD1973) July 21, 2019
We mention McGuinness because there seems to be a severe lack of political leadership where Northern Ireland is concerned. Boris Johnson will become British prime minister this week. The North Ireland assembly hasn't sat in 18 months. All that has been achieved could be so easily.
Shane Lowry conjured and controlled a massive emotional wave at Portrush this weekend. Even in the rain, this Open was unlike any other. It would be tragic if the Open is remembered as the end of something, instead of the beginning.