Brian Keogh in Lahinch
After kicking off his 40th consecutive appearance in the McNamara sponsored South of Ireland Championship with a 3 and 2 win, County Louth veteran Barry Reddan popped into Lahinch for a late peak at the scoreboard.
“Any shocks,” he enquired, just moments before the first and only surprise of the day crackled across the radio waves. Lahinch’s Thomas Neenan had despatched Irish Close finalist and East of Ireland runner up Dara Lernihan of the Castle by 4 and 3 in the last match on the course.
But that was as big a surprise as you could find at the end of a picture postcard summer’s day at the pristine Co Clare links, where a zephyr breeze made for excellent scoring and the leading contenders for the title and past champions such as Reddan and Jody Fanagan took their places in today’s third round draw with varying degrees of difficulty.
Reigning champion Darren Crowe from Dunmurry is only 27, but he aged a little on his 2008 debut when he was taken to the 18th by 43-year-old Michael Kemmy, a dual member of Limerick and Lahinch.
The Ulsterman got his nose in front for the first time all day when he successfully executed a difficult pitch over a bunker at the par-five finishing hole and drained an eight footer for a birdie four and the slimmest of victories.
"It was a bit of a fright but it is not a bad thing to start with a match like that once you get through it,” said a relieved Crowe, who was one down with two to play. "It gets you right into the championship straight away. If I am to get a run at all, I am sure there will be plenty of tight matches to come."
Kemmy was left wondering what he had done to offend the golfing gods after being drawn against the reigning champion for the third time in the space of nine years. In 2000, the one handicapper beat Dubliner Mark Campbell at the same stage, but fell to Co Louth's Simon Ward last year.
Hoping he might catch the champion cold, Kemmy was one up with three to play but missed a 16 footer for birdie at the 16th as Crowe holed from ten feet for a half and then snatched the 17th with a solid par before resolving a sticky situation at the last.
"It is a great championship and gives players like me a chance to have a go at quality players like Darren,” Kemmy said, who won Lahinch President Pat Gleeson's Prize in May. “If you play well in the first round and get a bit of form, you always have a chance of catching out one of the seeds on Sunday. But it would be easier if you didn't have to play the holder.”
While Irish Close champion Paul O’Hanlon beat Killeen’s Tristan O’Dowd 7 and 6 as East of Irland winner Eoin Arthurs beat Stackstown’s Liam Mulligan 4 and 3, the reigning West and North of Ireland champion Shane Lowry had to produce a barrage of birdies to see off Royal Portrush's Matthew McAlpin 3 and 2.
"It is good to get a tough match on the first day. I started birdie-birdie-par-birdie and I was one down. We had 11 birdies between us on the front nine,” Lowry explained. “Matthew really put it up to me but I knew he would be hard to beat because I played two rounds of qualifying with him in the North and I could see he was a very solid player."
P Murray (Limerick) bt A Meskell (Tipperary) 5/4;
D Reilly (Westmanstown) bt M Horan (Birr) 6/4;
J Fox (Portmarnock) bt N Goulding (Portmarnock) 2 up;
G Nugent (Kilkenny) bt M Buggy (Castlecomer) 4/2;
D Glynn (Galway) bt A Pierse (Tipperary) 3/2;
C Daly (Castletroy) bt G Bohill (Co Louth) 2/1;
K McDonagh (Athlone/NUIM) bt R Maher (Nenagh) 3/1;
C O’Malley (Westport) bt J Hannan (Carton House) 1 hole;
N Gorey (Lee Valley) bt D Scully (Galway) 4/3;
M Ryan (Grange) bt A Dooley (Glasson) 2/1;
D O’Donovan (Muskerry) bt C O’Connor (Athlone) 6/5;
G McDermott (Co Sligo) bt R O’Sullivan (Fota Island) 7/6;
G Carew (Edenderry) bt R Symington (Lisburn) 4/3;
J Fanagan (Milltown) bt K Crowley (Lee Valley) 5/4;
C Cunningham (Carton House) bt E Long (Thurles) 3/2;
S Lowry (Esker Hills) bt M McAlpin (Royal Portrush) 4/2.
S Power (West Waterford) bt M Welsh (Knock) 6/5;
E Power (Kilkenny) bt B Keenan (The Heath) 4/3;
D Ryan (Grange) bt I Murphy (Waterford) 20th;
K Kennedy (Thurles) bt I O’Rourke (Cork) 1 up;
G McGrane (The Royal Dublin) bt D Lally (Tuam) 6/5;
K Canty (Douglas) bt P McGrath (Dromoland) 1 hole;
S Doherty (Malone) bt C Keightley (East Clare) 1 hole;
D Crowe (Dunmurry) bt M Kemmy (Limerick) 1 up;
A Hogan (Newlands) bt Hannes Boch (Ballybunion) 20th;
P Sheehan (Ballybunion) bt D Hunt (Nenagh) 5/4;
D Finn ( Mallow) bt J Tobin (Carrick on Suir) 2/1;
D Morgan (Mullingar) bt M Timmins (Mount Wolsley) 1 hole;
D O Driscoll (Ballybunion) bt P Errity (The European Club) 2/1;
D Byrne (Douglas) bt S East (Moortown) 3/2;
D Keating (Kinsale) bt M Poucher ( Limerick) 19th;
P O'Hanlon (The Curragh) bt T O Dowd (Kileen) 7/6.
D Conway (Portmarnock) bt B Walton (The Island) 1 hole;
E O’Connor ( Ballybunion) bt G Conway (Mallow) 2/1;
A Condren (Greystones) bt J Keating (Kinsale) 5/4;
B V Reddan ( Co Louth) bt K Hurley (Bandon) 3/2;
N Grant (Knock) bt J Stevenson ( Royal Portrush) 3/2;
S Moloney ( Castletroy) bt G Smyth ( Clonmel) 3/1;
J Mc Nally ( Stoke Park) bt S Loftus ( Lahinch) 1 hole;
F Rafferty (Dungannon) bt C Martin (Kilkenny) 4/3;
E Arthurs (Forrest Litte) bt L Mulligan (Stackstown) 4/3;
E Haugh (Castletroy) bt A Lynch (Bray) 2 holes;
G Dunne (Seapoint) bt R Leonard (Banbridge) 4/3;
P Sheedy ( Lahinch) bt G Lawler (City West) 5/4;
G O Flaherty (Cork) bt W Kelly (Killeen) 8/6;
S Crowe (Dunmurry) bt D Coghlan (Royal Dublin);
D Rawluk (The Island) bt T Brannock (Newlands) 20th;
N Kearney (Royal Dublin) bt S Walsh (Killeen) 3/2.
S Ward (Co Louth) bt S Maher (Hyannis Port) 6/4;
D Downie (Sutton) bt A Harty (West Waterford) 2/1;
R McNamara (Headfort) bt S McGlynn (Castle) 4/3;
D O'Donovan (Bandon) w/o S Healy (Claremorris);
A Graham (Pacific GCC) bt D McCusker (Moyola Park) 3/2;
T Cleary (East Clare) bt A McAllister (Portmarnock) 3/2;
D McInerney (Lahinch) bt L Costello (Hollystown) 2/1;
C Curley (Newlands) bt R Walsh (Kilkenny) 3/1;
B Tracy (National Golf Links) bt I Morrison (Lahinch) 4/3;
JD Guiney (Ballybunion) bt M Collins (Mahon) 2/1;
S Kenneally (Kinsale) bt C Bowe (Tramore) 4/3;
A O'Callaghan (Douglas) bt B Campbell (Malone) 1 hole;
K McCarthy (Kinsale) bt S Keelan (Douglas) 1 hole;
F Deasy (Cork) bt J Adams (Pacific GCC) 20th;
J O'Neill (Lee Valley) bt JP Hughes (Douglas) 19th;
T Neenan (Lahinch) bt D Lernihan (Castle) 4/3.
3rd rd (7.0 at nine minute intervals)
1st quarter: Murray v Reilly; Fox v Nugent; Glynn v Daly; McDonagh v O'Malley; Gorey v Ryan; O'Donovan v McDermott; Carew v Fanagan; Cunningham v Lowry;
2nd quarter: S Power v E Power; Ryan v Kennedy; McGrane v Canty; Doherty v D Crowe; Hogan v Sheehan; Finn v Morgan; O'Driscoll v Byrne; Keating v O'Hanlon;
3rd quarter: Conway v O'Connor; Condren v Reddan; Grant v Moloney; McNally v Rafferty; Arthurs v Haugh; Dunne v Sheedy; O'Flaherty v S Crowe; Rawluk v Kearney;
Ward v Downie; McNamara v O'Donovan; Graham v Cleary; McInerney v Curley; Tracy v Guiney; Kenneally v O'Callaghan; McCarthy v Deasy; O'Neill v Neenan.