Limerick’s Pat Murray will be trying to become the first player to retain the Golfsure sponsored Irish Amateur Close Championship since Rory McIlroy in 2006 when he tees it up at Royal Dublin next month.

McIlroy became the youngest winner of the title when he triumphed at Westport as a 16-year old in 2005 and then retained his crown at The European Club the following season.

But Tipperary native Murray will face stiff competition from a top class field that includes Rathmore’s Alan Dunbar, an impressive winner of the Irish Amateur Open strokeplay title at the Dollymount venue earlier this month.

Lytham Trophy holder Paul Cutler, the low handicapper in the 150-strong field off plus 4, will also be fancied to go all the way while West of Ireland champion Rory Leonard has proved that he’s a formidable match player.

The cut fell at 0.9 – half a shot lower than last year - with four players balloted in off that handicap.

This will be the 11th time the Irish Amateur Close Championship will be staged at Royal Dublin but it is the first staging there since 1986 when Douglas’ John McHenry beat Trim’s Paul Rayfus 4 and 3.

Albert Lee, Honorary Secretary of the GUI, said: “As we saw at the Irish Amateur Open, Royal Dublin will pose a serious challenge to all of the competitors and the champion that emerges will have won the title on a very testing golf course.”

Golfsure’s Simon Russell added:  “Once again we are delighted to sponsor the Irish Amateur Close Championship and look forward to crowning another Irish Champion at Royal Dublin.”

The Championship was first held in 1893 at Royal Portrush and has been played each year since, with the exception of the war years.

Former winners include Paul McGinley (1989), Darren Clarke (1990), Padraig Harrington (1995), Peter Lawrie (1996), Graeme McDowell (2000), Brian McElhinney (2004) and McIlroy (2005 and 2006).