Brian Keogh at Lahinch
Former Clare keeper Davy Fitzgerald will miss seeing his county’s All Ireland Hurling Championship quarter-final clash with archrivals Limerick at Croke Park today after cruising into the second round of the South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.
The 35-year-old, who plays out of Dromoland Castle off a handicap of one, survived wet but windless afternoon conditions at the Co Clare links to beat Connemara’s Kenneth Fahey 3 and 1.
Thrilled to notch his first victory in the ‘South’ at the third attempt, Fitzgerald’s triumph was tinged with sadness as he knew that it would not allow him to cheer on his former teammates at GAA headquarters.
“I’m delighted to win,” he said after clinching a second round clash with Newlands' Cian Curley this afternoon. “But it means I won't get to see the hurling match tomorrow. It's on at 2 o'clock and I am off at 1 o'clock.”
Playing in steady afternoon rain, Fitzgerald was one down after six holes against 24-year-old Rhode Island graduate Fahey, a strapping one-handicapper with a distinctive mohican-style haircut.
“The bunker shot I hit at the seventh turned the match,” Fitzgerald explained. “I had 35 yards to the pin from the front left bunker and hit it dead. I needed that not to go two down because Kenneth had nailed an iron to 10 feet for birdie and then missed.”
After levelling the match at the eighth, Fitzgerald went one up with a par at the 10th and never looked back. A pitch and putt birdie at the 297-yard 13th put him two holes in front and while he lost the tough 15th to a par, regulation figures at the 16th and 17th gave him a deserved 3 and 1 victory.
It was a good day for the Kilkenny all round with three-time champion Pairic O'Rourke surviving a scare to beat Athenry's Mark King on the 20th while three-time Irish Close champion Eddie Power celebrated his 25th consecutive appearance in the South with an emphatic 8 and 7 victory over Newlands' Tony Brannock.
Play ended just before nine o'clock when Lahinch's Thomas Neenan, who was three down after 12, chipped for birdie at the 19th and looked on as Malone's Byron Campbell lipped out from eight feet to extend the match.
The big guns will roll into action today with County Louth's Simon Ward set to begin his defence of the title against Limerick's Michael Kemmy while North of Ireland champion Gareth Shaw will close the day's proceedings at 4.27 when he takes on Fota Island's Thomas O'Flynn.