Damian Mooney and Niall Kearney kept their tour dreams alive when they battled through the second stage of the European Tour Qualifying School in Spain.
But veteran Gary Murphy kissed his hopes of a quick return to the European Tour adios when he crashed to a final round 76 to miss out on a place at the final stage by six shots.
Murphy, 38, would have needed a 68 at El Valle in Murcia to make next weekend’s 108-hole final stage in Girona. But with just 23 players going through at each of the four venues, the former Irish champion ended up tied for 39th on six over.
Warrenpoint’s Barrie Trainor hit a 70 but agonisingly missed out on the top 23 by a stroke at the El Valle venue while former Shamrock Rovers striker Stephen Grant’s 75 left him seven shots shy.
But there was good news for the Irish at weather-lashed Costa Ballena Ocean Club in Jerez where big-hitting Belfast man Mooney closed with a level par 72 to finish three shots behind winner Eirik Tage Johansen of Norway in a share of third place on seven under.
Kearney grabbed a share of 11th on four under, following a crucial third round 65 with a battling 75 to qualify with ease. But Cork’s Michael Collins and Irish PGA champion David Mortimer both shot 79 to finish 46th and 64th respectively.
Muskerry’s Niall Turner finished four shots outside the 23 qualifying places at Haciendo del Alamo in Murcia while at Arcos Gardens in Jerez, Torrential rain forced officials to suspend the final qualifying round at Arcos Gardens in Jerez where Gareth Shaw is the only Irish player with a realistic chance of qualifying. He’s six shots outside the top 23 after 54 holes.
Kearney and Mooney will join Glasson’s Colm Moriarty and former Royal County Down assistant Simon Thornton in the final stage, which begins at PGA Catalunya near Girona on Saturday. The top 70 after four rounds play a further 36 holes with the leading 30 and ties after 108 holes earning full cards for the 2011 Race to Dubai.
**** Play at Arcos Gardens was concluded on Tuesday morning but Ulster’s Gareth Shaw finished 12 shots outside the top 23 on 13 over par following a final round 78. Jonathan Caldwell and Michael McGeady withdrew after three rounds.