David Shiel will earn his maiden Irish cap next week, but not how he might have thought.
From the bright lights of the Leinster Senior League to the R&A Men’s Home Internationals, it’s been quite the journey for the Enniscrone man who might be a late bloomer but is eager to take his chance in green at Machynys Peninsula next week.
A quarter-final place at last week’s South of Ireland Championship in Lahinch was enough for Shiel to hit the summit of the Bridgestone Order of Merit and answer Ireland’s call.
“I haven’t done anything like that before so I am delighted. I hadn’t really thought about it in any great detail at the start of the year then I was playing nicely at the start of the season so it’s a nice treat,” explained the mid-amateur who is aged ‘the wrong side of 21!’
“I can’t wait for the Home Internationals, it’s going to be great and really competitive which I love. I’ve been trying to park any thoughts of playing for Ireland, I don’t want to go and play for Ireland, we all want to, but I want to win for Ireland so once it got confirmed it was amazing, it’s an unbelievable feeling to get called up for your country.
“I’m really looking forward to the week I’m in a team with some unbelievably phenomenal players and some of the things they have won this year even it’s a great privilege to be alongside them and it will be a huge learning experience. Once I realised I was on the team I tried to change the focus straightaway to what I need to do to perform, we all want to win it back.”
Stinging from the pain of missing out on the Connacht Interprovincial side last year, Shiel was determined to attack this season with his main objective to reclaim his place for the province. Consistent results with top-10s at the West and Munster Strokeplay were tinged with disappointment but he continued his good form and was in one of the final groups at the Irish Amateur Open before dreams of donning the green jersey for the first time appeared on the horizon after coming 6th at the East.
Despite being disappointed to exit the South at the quarter-final stage last week, Shiel was soon smiling with an Irish debut to look forward to and perhaps, finally, some silverware.
“I’ve been pretty steady, I’ve been disappointed with some results being honest. The West was really disappointing I was playing lovely there and it suited me and I know the course inside out but I threw a match away but even things like in Cork were really disappointing, was second in qualifying then had a great match with Paul and the way it happens in matchplay I ended up losing. But very consistent golf and some tournaments that were a bit disappointing I felt in Lahinch last week that I could have gone all the way. The benefit of the Bridgestone Order of Merit is that you can play your way onto these teams, everyone knows going into the start of the season if you can be consistent that you can compete for big rewards at stake.
“At the start of the year my objective was to make the Connacht team, didn’t get it done last year so it was a big focus. Delighted to be doing that at the end of August but yeah making the Irish team is a bonus. After two or three events I knew I was doing well and I was aware of it and come the south I knew it was there and I’m really happy with how I handled it so the goal was to get on the Connacht team and then as the year went on I realised there was a bigger prize at stake and I am happy I didn’t let it effect me negatively so I was happy to get to the quarter-final and get it done and get to the top of the Order of Merit.”
For Shiel, this has been the journey of a late bloomer. The Dublin native balances his golf while running his own analytics consulting business (YourRetrofit.ie) and lectures part time in UCD. A talented golfer at boys level, it was the lure of the big ball that grasped him and he played Leinster Senior League football for over a decade, lining out for Beechwood and Pegasus St James’ Athletic before an early retirement through injury returned his attention to the small ball.
While he may be in 30s, it’s been a rapid rise into the international ranks for a player who only played his first championship in 2020.
“I lecture in UCD and I’ve my own business in which we provide analytics consulting services and build our own analytics products. We’ve actually just launched our first product called YourRetrofit.ie which is a web-based platform helping homeowners understand how to make their homes more energy efficient and to save money in doing so,” explained Shiel.
“I’ve only turned to the championships in the last three years, I hadn’t played a championship before Mullingar Scratch Cup in 2020 so seeing some of the other guys who are working and I love the competitiveness with the full-time amateur lads it gives an extra edge to it. Particularly Quentin last year and Collie in Lahinch who has knocked around and winning championships over the last few years. Quentin is the one who stood out it was great to see him win last year and I’ve been impressed with how he has approached golf since and he is leading the way for us.
“I played Boys golf and I was around a 3 handicap for that then I focused on football in my twenties and played Leinster Senior League for eleven or twelve years so golf was a casual sport for me. I had to give up football around 2019 or so with an injury and I refocused on golf and started targeting getting into championships. I wanted to get into the West the following year and got down to scratch then Covid happened! I scraped into the Mullingar Scratch Cup at +1 as thirteenth reserve when I just went down on the day and one person didn’t show up so I got in and haven’t looked back.”
Shiel will tee it up at Machynys between 9-11 August.