Open champion Padraig Harrington worked hard on the late shift to cruise clear of the field in the Irish PGA Championship at The European Club last night.

The Dubliner did not start his weather delayed second round until 5.30 pm and finished in total darkness at 10.21.

After an early double bogey six, he rattled off six birdies and a bogey in a magical 11-hole spell to move to the head of affairs on one-over par after a best of the week 68.

But the Dubliner faces a torrid end to his week with 1995 Ryder Cup hero Philip Walton gunning for his domestic crown after battling his way into a share of the clubhouse lead on four-over par alongside Clontarf’s Eamonn Brady and Greenore’s Robert Giles.

Veteran Walton feels the competitive fire coursing through his veins again after starting his week by ending his decade long absence from the Majors by qualifying for the Open at Royal Birkdale next week.

After carding a pair of 73’s, Walton said: “I’d love to have a battle with Padraig over the week-end. It would be good for next week at Birkdale. It would tune me up and in fact would be good for both of us.

“I would love to play with him on the last day, to be in there with him. No, not to compare my game with him. I play my own game. But I rate him highly. He’s tough in every way. A real tough gun.

“I miss the cut and thrust of the championships. Think of Brendan McGovern last year, I’d say he got tingly playing Padraig and going to a play-off. I miss that tingle. I’d say the last time I had it was in the Ryder Cup.

“When you’re swinging it well, you’re enjoying it. I stopped enjoying my golf after the Ryder Cup. This week and next week could give me a new lease of life. It would be a boost for my confidence.”

Harrington started at the 10th in torrential rain, double bogeyed the 11th to fall to six-over par before catching fire in perfect late evening conditions.

He birdied the 13th, 15th and 16th to nose in front on three-over par, holed a 20 footer at the short second to go two clear of the field and then recovered from a three-putt bogey at the fourth with a birdie at the fifth. Play will resume at 7.30 am today.