Local knowledge boosts Moriarty Challenge

A little knowledge might be a dangerous thing but it worked for local touring professional Colm Moriarty as he tamed a wicked west wind to card a two-under par 70 and lurk just one stroke off the pace in the €150,000 Challenge of Ireland at Glasson Golf Hotel and Country Club.

Blessed with the luck of the draw, the 28-year-old Athlone man avoided the torrential rain that lashed the morning starters and used his local knowledge to maximum effect to join England’s Richard Bland in a share of second place on seven-under par and trail former US Amateur and Irish Amateur Open champion Richie Ramsay (70) of Scotland by a stroke at halfway.

Like Bland, who crafted a superb 69 that was marred by just two dropped shots, Moriarty found a way to plot his course through the crosswinds gusting across Lough Ree and compile a card that featured four birdies and just two errors.

Buoyed by the support of a sizeable local gallery, the former South of Ireland champion gave them something to cheer about when he recovered from a shaky spell around the turn to play his last eight holes in three-under par.

"It was a tough day and I know when it is a tough day round here,” Moriarty said. “I have been saying all along that it is just another tournament. It is on my home course which is probably a bit of an advantage here or there but you still have to put the ball in the hole.

“I didn't play brilliantly but I holed out well, hung in there well and finished nicely. There were a fair few watching me and when you are doing well, they come out of the woodwork. You can see them snowballing. It was a good and I am looking forward to the weekend now.”

Overnight leader Michael McDermott confessed that he lost his swing in the wind as he followed his opening 64 with 75 to fall back into a share of fourth place on five-under par, one shot better than David Higgins, who battled through the morning rain for a 74 and Lurgan’s Gareth Shaw, who shot 71 in the afternoon.

But Moriarty, ranked 111th in the money list, showed that he is well capable of picking up a win that would catapult him to within touching distance of the top 20 money winner who will earn their passports to the European Tour at the end of the season.

They key to his round came at the 11th and 12th, where he hit mid-irons to six feet on both occasion and holed the birdie putts to get his round back into red figures.

“They were two good shots and they turned the round around for me I suppose,” he said. “I holed a nice 12 footer to save par on the 16th and another nice 12 footer for birdie on the 17th.”

Ramsay had six birdies and four bogeys in a 70 and was pleased to get back into the thick of the action after watching his name slip down the rankings as he sat out four weeks of the season with a recent rib injury.

“I've had three top 10s so far,” said Ramsay, who is 39th in the rankings. “Then I got injured and was out for four weeks the week before the Scottish Challenge. I was getting some good momentum with three top tens and I was ready to go.

“It was a tough time as you can't do much. I was around 20th in the rankings when I got injured. It's been very frustrating as you watch yourself drop down and you can't do anything about it.”

Birr’s Justin Kehoe hit a second successive 71 to lie just six shots off the pace on two under par but just 10 of the 32 Irish competitors made the one-over par cut mark with Michael Hoey birdie-birdie finish for a 75 leaving him one shot outside the mark.