A young England Under 16 squad has gained vital experience and earned praise for their gritty play in a narrow defeat to Ireland.
The visitors emerged from two days of tough competition at Hunstanton GC with a 16.5-13.5 victory.
The win was sweet revenge for Ireland following England’s triumph at Limerick GC a year ago.
However, there is much for the England staff and players to build on as they look ahead to the European Team Championships and Home Internationals in 2020 and beyond.
After Saturday’s play featuring both foursomes and singles matches, Ireland held a 10.5-7.5 lead.
They were then made to fight all the way with honours even in terms of Sunday’s play. The 12 singles games produced a 6-6 split to allow Ireland to claim overall victory.
Ireland’s strength – particularly in the boys’ section – allowed them to cross the finishing line first.
However, there was some sparkling golf on show from both squads.
The combined girls’ and boys’ teams had to put up with some treacherous conditions – especially on Sunday when the wind and rain swept into Norfolk and produced some appalling weather for golf.
Yet the standard of play was of a very high standard.
From the boys’ point of view the form of Yorkshire’s Joshua Berry was noteworthy – the 14-year-old managing to claim big singles victories against Joe Byrne and full Irish international Josh Hill by shooting under par on both days.
Hugh Adams also put two points on the board in singles to re-inforce his growing reputation at junior level.
In the girls’ squad, Lydia Cryer can also feel justifiably proud of her efforts having won all three games she played. The Lancashire junior displayed great character to win both her singles matches on the 18th green.
Meanwhile, for the second season in succession Surrey’s Rafiah Banday ended the Irish match unbeaten – winning a foursomes tie and taking one and a half points from her two singles games.
Even for those players unable to win full points or simply new to the set-up, there was plenty to admire about the way they coped with exposure to the international scene.
Maggie Whitehead’s singles victory over Katie Poots on Sunday will fill her with confidence going forward.
Meanwhile, Surrey’s Lottie Woad was three down with three to play in her singles game against Anna Dawson but fought back to earn a half.
Irish girl Beth Coulter had to come from two down with two to play to deny Rachel Gourley a point that her overall play perhaps merited. A birdie on 17 and a fantastic up and down on 18 denying Gourley the glory.
The boys’ and girls’ squad will now put the competitive 2019 season behind them and focus on the challenges of the new year.
Regional and National junior squads will meet up for coaching over the winter months at Woodhall Spa with one-to-one coaching and advice for the players forming part of a personal development plan.