Challenge Tour trio Colm Moriarty, Simon Thornton and Jonathan Caldwell remained on course to make next week's final stage of the European Tour Qualifying School in Spain.

Almost 300 players are battling for 74 places in the finals at PGA Golf Catalunya at four second stage venues but nine of Ireland's 12 hopefuls are in danger of missing out.

Moriarty and Thornton are inside the qualifying mark with two rounds to go at Sherry Golf, where 18 places are up for grabs.

Clandeboye's Jonathan Caldwell, who earned his card at the school last year but failed to retain it, is just inside the top 19 who qualify at Hacienda del Alamo.

But the other nine Irish hopefuls need to pull out the stops now to make it.

Eddie Barr and Michael McGeady are six shots outside the qualifying places with David Higgins seven adrift of the top 18 after a second round 76 in Jerez.

At Costa Ballena near Cadiz, Royal Dublin amateur Niall Kearney (73) and St Margaret's John Kelly (71) are five strokes outside the leading 19 players to qualify there despite getting to one under par.

"It was windy," Kelly wrote on Twitter. "Dropped to 47th. Two good rounds needed now but it can be done."

Lurgan's Gareth Shaw and Munster men Michael Collins and Cian McNamara have it all to do at Arcos Gardens.

Shaw carded a 76 to slip back to two over par and four shots outside the top 19 qualifiers with Collins and McNamara six shots off the qualifying pace in tied 52nd on four over. 

Sherry Golf (Par 72) Leading 18 qualify (mark -3)

T7 Colm Moriarty (-5) 69 70

T13 Simon Thornton (-3) 68 73

T43 Eddie Barr (+3) 74 73, Michael McGeady (+3) 71 76

T53 David Higgins (+4) 72 76

Arcos Gardens (Par 72) Leading 19 qualify (mark -2)

T40 Gareth Shaw (+2) 70 76

T52 Michael Collins (+4) 75 73; Cian McNamara (+4) 74 74.

Costa Ballena (Par 72) Leading 18 to qualify (mark -6)

T47 Niall Kearney (Am) (-1) 70 73, John Kelly (-1) 72 71

Hacienda del Alamo (Par 72) Leading 19 qualify (mark -3)

T16 Jonathan Caldwell (-3) 69 72

T51 Mervyn Owens (+3) 71 75