Brendan Lowry, with Shane just behind him, waves the now ‘Clara’ Jug. Inpho/Presseye/Matt Mackey photo.
By PJ Cunningham
History was made at the weekend as a Celtic Cross and a famous Claret Jug sat side-by-side under the one roof in Clara, County Offaly.
Brendan Lowry and his two brothers were part of the Offaly team that deprived Kerry’s five-in-a-row ambition in 1982 when winning the All Ireland final.
When Shane Lowry brought the British Open championship home Sunday in Royal Portrush it was indeed a unique occasion to see the one Irish family possess two of sports iconic winning symbols.
Padraig Harrington, who is a mentor and great friend of Shane Lowry, almost completed the same double up but his late father, Paddy, was part of a Cork football team beaten by Galway in the 1956 All Ireland final, and by Louth in 1957.
In the Lowrys’ case, Shane and Brendan were both winners – and his uncles Sean and Mick could throw in their Celtic Crosses too for good measure.
As a Clara man myself, I’m reliably informed that for the next twelve months the winning trophy will be known as the “Clara Jug” all around the Irish midlands and indeed farther afield.
Irish people the world over are now walking ten feet tall. That’s the beauty of sport. It can make one person’s exploits turn into a collective feel good.
We, those of us from Offaly that is and a few more besides, felt this 37 years ago when Seamus Darby’s goal dethroned the Kingdom. This time around t was the 32-year-old Offalyman not just winning, but shooting the lights out in arguably the greatest golfing major of them all.
The manner of Shane’s victory gives us reason to celebrate an extraordinary achievement, one that will live in the memory for decades to come.
Indeed, it hardly seems like a decade back that he brought the little town to a standstill by winning the Irish Open in Baltray as an amateur. That was his time to forfeit €500,000 but also to embark on a professional career that now includes five massive wins, including a major and joint runner-up in the U.S. Open.
Not bad for a very likeable young man who is this week the most popular sportsman in the country.
Lowry bestrode the course like a Colossus, displaying a mental fortitude that set him apart. The pride was in how he had learnt from Oakmont to keep control. And so, this time, his victory march across the final 18 holes.
This son of Clara was quiet and dignified but heroic, emerging from the heat of battle while transforming his status from great to legend.
And that Clara Jug will always remind us of where we were, what we were doing, and how we felt the day Shane Lowry conquered the world on Irish soil.