By Brian Keogh
Colm Moriarty led the Irish charge for a coveted European Tour card in the gruelling Qualifying School Finals at San Roque.
The Glasson professional opened his bid with a two under par 70 in perfect conditions on the Old Course to finish the day in a 20-man tie for 10th place.
But the marathon journey to finish in the top 30 and ties looks like an uphill battle for Ireland’s remaining contenders with no fewer than 28 players tied for 30th place on one under par.
As England’s Robert Coles hit a six under par 66 on the New Course to open up a two-stroke lead over the field, Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe shot a two over par 74 as Stephen Browne, Damian Mooney and Michael McGeady signed for three over par 75s.
"It's such a long week but every good round you get under your belt is one less you have to worry about," said Moriarty, who had four birdies and just two bogeys in his 70.
O'Keeffe’s 74 on the Old Course that left him tied for 102nd and reflecting on what might have been after he finished with two bogeys in his last three holes, splashing down in the lake at the 568-yard 17th after pushing a 270-yard four-wood.
McGeady was three over par after 11 holes but after getting back to one over with two to play with a birdie at the seventh, he triple bogeyed his 17th hole on the Old by missing the green, duffing a chip and then three-putting.
Belfast man Mooney struggled with his wedge-play while Dubliner Browne missed too many greens as they hit matching 75s on the New Course.
Browne was two under after four holes but then had six bogeys in ten-hole stretch before picking up a shot on the 16th.
"Overall it was a little bit of damage limitation," Browne said. "If that's my bad round, things could be okay."