ABOVE: Mark Keohane (3rd from left).
Bandon man Mark Keohane recently guided the Ireland pitch and putt team to World Cup glory following their narrow win achieved against Catalonia on a 3-2 scoreline following a pulsating and dramatic conclusion to the World Cup in Andorra. Mark, who has represented both Bandon and Ballineen pitch and putt teams, crowned his first season in charge of the Ireland senior pitch and putt team with Team Ireland’s third successive triumph at the World Cup. He talks to John Bohane.
Appointed manager of the Ireland senior team only a few weeks prior to the start of the World Cup, Mark was thrilled to have played a role in their famous victory. “Winning the World Cup was an incredible achievement for Ireland especially as it was the third time in-a-row the team had secured World Cup glory. It is most definitely my greatest sporting moment so far, be it as a player or team mentor. It was a really special feeling when we beat Catalonia on a final scoreline of 3-2 in the final. I have to give special praise to all my coaching colleagues whose assistance was invaluable while the team members performed fantastically well over the course of the World Cup.
“To be involved as a manager with the Irish team is an incredible honour for both my family and myself; we are all pitch and putt enthusiasts and it plays a huge part in our lives. I got great support throughout the tournament from my family, it was great to return home triumphant.”
He boasts an impressive coaching resume; Mark established a formidable reputation as a proven and very distinguished coach following his successful managerial tenure with the various Cork inter-county pitch and putt teams with whom he led to a plethora of championship titles.
What does Mark feel are his greatest managerial characteristics? “I like to think I bring a lot of passion to any management role I take on. I also feel I offer a lot of experience and know how which I have amassed over the past ten years having being involved with the various Cork inter-county teams. We enjoyed a lot of success during our time with the Cork inter-county teams. We won 17 titles at senior gent, ladies and at U16 level. I can tend to get too involved and a bit over excited on occasion but that’s just my way and I don’t think my passion will diminish or I will change any time soon. As manager, one of my most important tasks is to take care of all the minor details, to ensure the players only have to focus on their game. Preparatory work is a key objective of mine. The players expect a professional approach and I enjoy meeting their requirements. We work well together.”
The West Cork native took up playing pitch and putt with Bandon Pitch and Putt Club in 1993. “I started playing with my local club in 1993. I loved the game instantly. I also played with Ballineen but I am now a proud member of Rocklodge in Carrigrohane. I never played for Ireland but I always enjoyed some modest success at club and open competitions. I have a fiercely competitive nature but my playing days have been somewhat restricted of late due to some knee problems. Team management is my way of achieving some measure of success from an international perspective.”
There are currently only eight clubs who are active in pitch and putt throughout West Cork. Pitch and Putt enjoyed a surge of popularity at the turn of the century but membership and participation in the sport has decreased in recent years. Mark is confident that Pitch and Putt has a bright future however and will thrive. “Things are looking up of late, as a whole new generation are taking up the game, which is very positive. Pitch and Putt will flourish all over Ireland with good and strong leadership from those at the top of the sport. Coupled with grassroots work done by clubs, people will be attracted back into the sport. At this moment in time, too many clubs sit back and do not actively seek membership ¬ this approach has to change and clubs must embrace a new way of thinking.”
Mark is lavish in his praise for the sport and the various benefits it offers to participants who take it up. The advantages of the sport are numerous, as he explains. “It is extremely cheap to play and it can be played by anyone from the age of eight up to 80 years of age. The main benefits are the low cost nature of the game. It is also not time-consuming, as one can play a round of 18 holes in an hour or less and anyone may play. I always encourage kids and their parents to get involved, as pitch and putt is a great pastime for the whole family to spend valuable time with one another.”
Mark hopes to be involved with the Ireland team when they defend their World Cup crown in two years time but his immediate focus now reverts back to inter-county action with the various Cork teams who he hopes to guide to success in the forthcoming Munster Championships.
Mark is also busy actively seeking ways to ensure the game continues to grow and develop. “My focus now turns to the Cork teams. We are bidding to retain our ladies and gents titles and win back the U16 title. I am the current chairman of the Cork Board. A lot of work is ongoing at present to keep the game strong. I am lucky to have a very good team behind me in my committee in Cork. We are trying to improve our sport for those that play at all levels.”
With Mark at the helm, Pitch and Putt appears destined to go from strength to strength.