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, Co Offaly.
Shane Lowry’s father, Brendan, and his two uncles 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 brought the British Open championship home earlier this week in Royal Portrush, it was indeed an unique occasion to see the one Irish family possess two of sports iconic winning symbols.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 21, 2019
Padraig Harrington, who is a mentor and great friend of Lowry jnr, 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 12 months, the winning trophy will be known as the ‘Clara Jug’ all around the Irish midlands and indeed further afield.
All this week, Irish people the world over were walking 10 foot tall – that’s the beauty of sport, it can make one person’s exploits turn into a collective feelgood.
We felt that 37 years ago when Seamus Darby’s goal dethroned the Kingdom; this time around it 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 gave 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 littla town to a standstill by winning the Irish Open in Baltray as an amateur.
That was his time to forfeit €500,000 then but to embark on a professional career that now includes five massives wins, including a major and joint runner-up in the US Open.
Not bad for a very likeable young man who is the most popular sportsman in the country.
He bestrode the course like a Colossus, displaying a mental fortitude that set him apart as a modern day leader.
The pride was in how he’d learnt from Oakmont to keep control on his victory march across the final 18 holes.
This son of Clara was quiet and dignified but heroic; emerging from the heat of battle transformed 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.