Iron McGinley eyes Ryder Cup glory

Evening Standard correspondent Ken Dyer talks West Ham United, Gaelic football and golf with Team Europe's Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.

I am sure Paul McGinley was watching West Ham United's highly entertaining 2-2 draw at Hull City last Monday night and the fantastic 3-1 win over Liverpool on Saturday. After all, he hasn't got much else in the diary right now, has he?

In fact, the countdown to this year's Ryder Cup is now almost over. By the time the Hammers go to Old Trafford this weekend Paul, as the captain of the European team, will be bang in the middle of what is always a highly-charged, emotional weekend of golf.

I don't know if there are any plans to send Paul best wishes from the club but it's not a bad idea. The genial Irishman has been a fervent Hammers' fan since 1975 when, aged nine, he sat down in the lounge of his parents' home in Dublin and watched Alan Taylor scored both goals in the 2-0 FA Cup final victory over Fulham.

That was it. The young McGinley was hooked although he preferred playing Gaelic football back home, until a broken kneecap at the age of 18 brought that particular playing career to a very premature end.

His experiences in Gaelic football though, had planted in the young Paul McGinley, a passion for team sports which held him in good stead later in a highly successful golfing career which spanned three successful Ryder Cup playing appearances in 2002, '04 and '06. In 2002 he holed a ten-foot putt on the 18th green to beat American Jim Furyk and clinch a European victory.

Vice-captain of the European Ryder Cup team in 2010 and 12, Paul now has the ultimate gig but in an interview with this club before planning for this weekend's monumental challenge took over all his waking hours, he explained his passion for all things West Ham.

"I began supporting West Ham after I watched them on TV on the 1975 FA Cup final. I think it was the colour of the shirts which first attracted me to them," he recalls.

"Where I was brought up in Ireland no-one supported West Ham, it was all Chelsea, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester United but I was a big Hammers fans from then on.

"I try to get to watch matches as much as I can but football is a big part of golf tours, the players, the caddies, all watch the matches on TV and have their favourite teams.

"When we're abroad we're always checking the updates on the internet or listening to the radio, so everyone knows what's happening in the Premier League."

Paul McGinley will captain Team Europe at Gleneagles

He was at Cardiff back in 2006 for what John Motson described on BBC TV as "surely the best Cup final of modern times", when one member of last week's Liverpool line-up, Steven Gerrard, enjoyed what he later admitted was a 'dream day'.

"Obviously the special memories are the cup finals," says Paul, "especially if we win. I was at Cardiff for the one we lost to Liverpool - what a game that was, I still haven't forgiven Steven Gerrard for what he did to us, we were seconds away from victory. What a terrific game it was though.

"I've had some great times when I've come over to Upton Park. I've always been a West Ham fan - always will be.

"West Ham fans are real football fans to me - they don't support their team just for the glory - it's in their blood. My son is now a passionate West Ham fan."

West Ham-supporting golfers tend to be an exclusive group. "Roger Chapman is another big Hammers fan on the golf tour," says Paul. "He won two major tournaments on the Seniors tour in the United States last year. Robert Coles is also a big Hammers fan."

And what of the Ryder Cup challenge against the best the United States can offer?

"It's a big job and one I'm relishing," he says. "Going up against Tom Watson isn't going to be easy but I'm really looking forward to it."

And what of the likelihood of success for Paul McGinley's other favourite team?

"Fingers crossed West Ham will have a good season," says. "It was a bit of a struggle at times last year but that's sport whether its football or golf, the margins are very small."

*The 2014 Ryder Cup begins on Friday 26 September and ends on Sunday 28 September at The Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland. It will be screened live by Sky Sports.

*This interview first appeared in Saturday's Programme for the visit of Liverpool. Click here to order your copy now.