Shane Lowry can take a huge step towards clinching his place in the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup side by ending Ireland’s six-year wait for a home winner of the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin.

The 72-hole strokeplay championship tees off this morning with the 22-year old from Esker Hills - trimmer than ever thanks to the fitness advices of former Lions flanker Eric Miller - widely regarded as one of the favourites to become the first Irish champion since Noel Fox triumphed at the Dollymount links in 2003.

The 120-strong international field features 14 of the GB&I Walker Cup squad with the top 39 set to battle it out over the final 36-holes on Sunday.

Ireland has six men in the squad and Lowry will be joined by four of them at Royal Dublin with local hero Niall Kearney, Portstewart’s Paul Cutler, Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar and Castle’s Dara Lernihan hoping to prove that they have what it takes to make the 10-man side that will take on the United States at Merion Golf Club in Pennsylvania from September 12-13.

The Walker Cup captain, Colin Dalgleish, will be roaming the links with several of his selectors over the weekend and he’s expecting big things from the Irish contingent and Lowry in particular.

"The Irish boys are on a great run, winning the European Team Championship again last year and the Home Internationals," Dalgleish said. "Shane has been working out a little bit and lost a bit of weight. He looks fitter and is playing well and has been a very strong performer recently.

“A lot of the boys take inspiration from what Rory (McIlroy) has done recently and Padraig (Harrington), obviously.  They really relate to Rory's achievements because he was an amateur so very recently and they have got to take some inspiration from that.”

Plus four handicapper Lowry, who was sixth behind defending champion Pedro Figueiredo of Portugal 12 months ago, led last week's Lytham Trophy after the first round and eventually finished joint third.

Scotland’s Keir McNicoll is the low man in the field off plus six and will be joined by compatriots Wallace Booth and Gavin Dear, the two remaining amateurs from the three-man team that won the World Amateur Team Championship in Adelaide last November.

England’s top players have missed the event in recent years due to a clashing fixture with France but Walker Cup hopefuls Luke Goddard, Sam Hutsby and Dale Whitnell are all at Royal Dublin this week.