England’s Senior Ladies came agonisingly close to a famous victory in the Home Internationals – losing out to Ireland in a thrilling finale to the series.
The hosts pipped Debbie Richards’ squad by the narrowest of margins after the teams drew the final and decisive game.
Ireland and England ended the four-team round-robin with two wins a draw from their three games to finish tied on points.
Irish eyes were smiling however, as the hosts retained their title by virtue of having won more match points.
Even then the gap was slender – Ireland’s 12-6 record compared to England’s tally of 11-7 meaning they edged victory by a single point.
“It all comes down to one match or even one putt, but I couldn’t have asked for any more from the team,” admitted Richards.
“They were fantastic and the standard of play on the final day was exceptional.
“I’m extremely proud of all of them and just disappointed that we couldn’t quite hold on for the win.
“Laura Webb from Ireland holed a monster putt on 17 in the game against Helen Lowe and that maybe swung it.
“You can’t do anything about your opponents holing from that distance and Laura ended up winning on the 18th.
“When Jackie Foster halved her match on 18 we knew we couldn’t win.
“However, having beaten Scotland and Wales and drawn with Ireland on their home soil I’m not sure what more I could have asked from a fantastic team.”
England had earlier in the day defeated Scotland by a convincing 4-1 margin to tee up the ‘winner-takes-all’ showdown with the two-time defending champs.
Due to a poor weather forecast for Thursday and imminent arrival of ‘Storm Lorenzo’, the decision was taken to condense two days’ play into one and complete the event 24 hours ahead of schedule.
That meant England’s games against Scotland and Ireland were reduced to five singles matches with the three foursomes ties shelved.
England, however, fell just short on an afternoon of real drama at the Sligo Golf Club at Rosses Point.
Ireland knew that a draw would be enough to ensure a third successive crown.
But as the matches entered the closing stretch it looked as if England might just have enough left in the tank to get the job done.
Bromborough’s Caroline Berry and Aileen Greenfield both took points for England.
But with Paula Carver losing out in her match it ultimately came down to nail-biting finishes in two games which went all the way to the 18th hole.
Unfortunately for England, Lowe lost out to an inspired Webb while Foster’s half point was not quite enough to pip Ireland to the post.
After a brave effort in cold but relatively calm conditions, Richards was able to reflect on a lot of positives despite the heartbreak of the final result.
After an opening day 4.5-3.5 win over Wales, Carver, Greenfield and Foster put points on the board against Scotland without having to go past the 14th hole.
Caroline Berry’s match against Scotland’s Elaine Moffat was closer with the Bromborough golfer edging it on the 18th.
Stirling’s Alison Davidson was the only Scots winner in her match with Wyke Green’s Lulu Housman.
Buoyed by that overall victory, it all came down to England’s match against hosts.
This always had the look of a decider when it was drawn to be the final head-to-head of the round-robin series – and so it proved.
Richards added: “I’m sure our team will be back again next year determined to win this trophy.
“It was a disappointment that the format had to be altered because of the weather warning, but we can have no complaints.
“It would have been much worse to have beaten Wales and Scotland and then not have had the drama of the Ireland match.”
England’s near miss also denied a little bit of history – with the girls, boys, men, ladies and senior men having won their Home International titles, a victory for the senior ladies would have been the first time any nation had swept the board and won all six championships.
Photograph credit: Leaderboard