GOLF: Raheny’s Fennelly will steer the ship for Team Europe at Arnold Palmer Trophy this weekend in Lahinch

by Gazette Reporter
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By Daragh Small

RAHENY’S Barry Fennelly – head coach of the 2024 Arnold Palmer Universities Trophy team that also features Hermitage GC star Kate Lanigan – recalls his time in charge of a Ryder Cup rookie prodigy fondly.

It was an international team full of star quality but one tall and athletic Swede seemed to have a ruthless edge.

He was Ludvig Aberg, a man who just over 12 months later would secure two points in the Ryder Cup and help Europe to an historic victory in Rome.

Barry Fennelly was the assistant coach of the International Team at the Arnold Palmer Cup in 2022 and he knew there was a prodigious talent on show.

“He had this ability to really focus on the job at hand when it comes down to it,” said Fennelly.

“Ludvig would have been a really really great guy in the team room. Very relaxed, having fun, laughing and joking. But as soon as it came to show time, he went into a different phase of focus, he went into Ludvig the competitor and the phenomenal player.

“That was really impressive to see for me. He had an ability to switch on when he needed to. That is what the great players are able to do. It is very hard to concentrate for four hours plus on a golf course but he just had that unique ability to switch on and switch off.

“He needed that down time, he enjoyed the team room. That was important for us, he showed the other guys, when we are not competing we are relaxing we are having a bit of fun. But when it comes to getting down for business it is all focused.

“We are all guilty of wasting too much energy around the golf and the preparation part of it. Not being efficient with our time. We forget how much High Performance competition takes from you in terms of zapping energy.

“It is really important when you are in a big week, any big tournament or team event. Players need to be disciplined in their downtime and manage their energy.”

Fennelly is Maynooth through and through, although he grew up in Raheny on the northside of Dublin, and he was first introduced to golf at Clontarf Golf Club. He got his initial schooling there from Joe Craddock.

“I was lucky to get some tuition from Joe and a bit of grounding from him which really had an impact on me as a junior,” said Fennelly.

“My older brother was quite a decent player as well, he started before me so that really got me into it.

“I loved Clontarf, brilliant place for juniors, really welcoming. When you start working in golf you only appreciate it now what parents and junior convenors and people in the club did for you in setting up competitions.

“That was a really great start. I got good quite early and it was brilliant playing for the club teams. The Lord Mayor’s Cup is a huge event in Clontarf. That was a brilliant education for me to get going and I was fortunate to have a win in that.”

Fennelly was just 14 when he took home that prize and golf soon took precedence over team sports, while he relocated to Royal Dublin two years later.

He attended St Paul’s College in Raheny and he was in the same year as future professional, Niall Kearney. They had success in the Schools All-Ireland Finals and it paved the way for a move to collegiate golf in the States.

Fennelly did a year at Odessa College in Texas before an opportunity opened in Maynooth and he jumped at it.

“It gave me a great experience and certainly brought my golf on.

“We were lucky we got a bronze medal in a national championship but I decided to come to Maynooth after that, the Paddy Harrington Scholarship was getting started,” said Fennelly.

“Neil Manchip and Dave Kearney would have been involved at the start.

“If golf didn’t work out for me in the States I wouldn’t have had a massive amount to fall back on, so Maynooth appealed to me.”

Fennelly returned to Ireland in 2007 and so began his long affinity with Maynooth University.

He studied a Bachelor of Business and Management and then graduated to do a Master of Science in Strategy and Innovation.

He concluded his studies in 2011 and began to head up the Paddy Harrington Scholarship, where he acts as manager for the programme.

“It got launched just after the Ryder Cup in 2006. There was two guys that got a scholarship but it really got going the following year when there was a load of us who came in,” said Fennelly

“It was brilliant because there was a really good environment of quality players from all over the country. We had also quite a strong women’s team at that time. That was the first thing, having a really competitive environment.

“Having the access to Carton and the facilities on our doorstep was brilliant. The coaching element also appealed to me because that was something I didn’t get enough of in America. I was able to maximise my ability over there in terms of getting to the next level. I just needed some development and coaching.

“If you wanted to do well you had the opportunity, the facilities, a bit of coaching support. We had overseas training camps in Portugal. There wasn’t as much of a competitive programme at that time in college golf. That came later when I got involved on the management side of it.

“I did a Masters in 2011, at that stage it had come on a lot. I loved the structured element to it. It is something I brought back from America as a player and kept it in the programme. I wanted something to be done similar to the States, there is a set structure each week whether that is S&C or practise or competing together.”

Over the years, Maynooth have produced seven Arnold Palmer Cup players, with Kate Lanigan and Ryan Griffin their representatives in Lahinch this week. Sara Byrne and Max Kennedy complete the Irish contingent for the historic renewal on the west coast links.

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