Limerick assistant Cian McNamara and Royal Dublin talent Neil O’Briain battled their way into the top-10 after the opening round of the European Tour Qualifying School second stage in Spain.
On a mixed day for the 13 Irishmen who eventually teed it up - Portmarnock’s Noel Fox withdrew due to a family illness - former South of Ireland champion McNamara fired a four under 67 to lie just a shot behind a quintet of leaders at Las Colinas in Alicante in a share of sixth place. O’Briain shot a four under 69 to share 10th at La Manga.
Five under after 12 holes, 25-year old McNamara bogeyed the 13th but parred his way home as five players, including 2006 Irish Amateur Open champion Antti Ahokas of Finland, shot 66’s
More than 300 players are competing at four Spanish venues for a place in the Q-School final stage at PGA Catalunya in Girona from December 10-15.
However, while at least 16 players will advance at each venue, Qualifying School Director Mike Stewart explained that the final number will not be announced until the conclusion of the UBS Hong Kong Open on Sunday.
Stewart said: “With the Second Stage of the Qualifying School being played against the penultimate event on the European Tour and the various anomalies and uncertainty that this has created, the entry deadline for the Qualifying School Final has been extended to 17.00 (UK time) on Sunday 4th December.”
The fact that at least 16 will advance at each venue is good news for Waterville’s David Higgins and US-based Corkman Aaron O’Callaghan, who shot three under 68’s at the same venue to share 12th place.
However, Royal Dublin’s Niall Kearney had just one birdie in a disappointing 72 to share 52nd while Ballyliffin’s Brendan McCarroll was undone by a quadruple bogey seven at the 14th as he posted a damaging 78 to lie 74th in the 75-strong field.
There was better news for O’Briain on the South Course at La Manga Club in Murcia as he finished the day tied for 10th following a four under 69, just three shots off the lead.
But both Colm Moriarty and Michael McGeady have a lot of work to do to get back into the mix after two over 75’s left time tied for 56th.
Still in Murcia, Ballymena’s Chris Devlin is the only Irish player inside the top-16 at El Valle Golf Resort after a three under 68 left him tied for 12th.
But both Clandeboye’s Jonny Caldwell and Galway native Mark Staunton of Castleknock Golf Club are well placed in tied 19th after 69’s.
Former Shamrock Rovers player Stephen Grant and Asian Tour regular Niall Turner of Muskerry did well to fight back from slow starts and shoot one over 71’s, leaving them tied 40th.
There were no Irish players in action at Costa Ballena Ocean Club in Jerez, where US Walker Cup star Peter Uihlein hit a 68 to grab a share of the first round lead with Australia’s Wade Ormsby and Spain’s Pedro Oriol.
Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, Alicante (Leaders -5)
T6 Cian McNamara 67 (-4)
T12 David Higgins 68 (-3)
T12 Aaron O’Callaghan (68)
T52 Niall Kearney 72 (+1)
74 Brendan McCarroll 78 (+7)
El Valle Golf Resort, Murcia (Leader -8)
T12 Chris Devlin 68 (-3)
T19 Jonny Caldwell 69 (-2)
T19 Mark Staunton 69 (-2)
T40 Stephen Grant 72 (+1)
T40 Niall Turner 72 (+1)
La Manga Club, Cartagena (Leaders -7)
T10 Neil O’Briain 69 (-4)
T56 Michael McGeady 75 (+2)
T56 Colm Moriarty 75 (+2)
WD Noel Fox WD.