Title favourite Alan Dunbar remained at the head of affairs entering today’s final 36 holes in the East of Ireland Amateur Open at firm and fast County Louth.

The 21-year old Walker Cup prospect avoided the worst of the wet and windy morning conditions yet while he failed to take advantage of a major break in the weather after lunch he was still pleased to limit the ‘damage’ to a level par 72.

“I struggled today but I still managed to get it around,” said Dunbar, who leads by a stroke on four under par 140 from Galway’s Eddie McCormack, Ballymena’s Dermot McElroy and Headfort’s Rory McNamara, who carded a best of the day 68 in the worst of the early conditions.

Alan Dunbar on the third at Baltray. (Credit , Jenny Matthews www.newsfile.ie)Dunbar is hoping to prove a point at Baltray having missed out on the chance to impress the Walker Cup captain Nigel Edwards and his selectors in the St Andrews Links Trophy over the weekend.

The Ulserman was balloted out on handicap and feels frustrated that the GUI rigidly stuck its policy and refused to send an official teams to an event that clash with a championship at home. The Union had four exemptions at its disposal but could not facilitate Dunbar without breaking a Central Council resolution designed to protect field in national or provincial championships.

Of the 16 Walker Cup hopefuls called up for last month’s squad session at Royal Aberdeen, just three failed to play at St Andrews and all three were Irish.

While Paul Cutler finished 27th at the Home of Golf, 13 strokes behind winner Tom Lewis, Dunbar was at Baltray with McElroy while Waterford’s Kevin Phelan was in the US preparing for today’s US Open Sectional Qualifiers.

Dunbar has made his point so far by taking the 36-hole lead into the final day with McElroy just a shot behind him alongside McNamara and Galway’s Eddie McCormack after a 71.

McNamara, meanwhlle, was inspired by some words of encouragement from fellow Kells man Damien McGrane, who became a regular practice partner over the winter months.

“I’ve played a lot with Damien and he just tells me to keep plugging away and keep doing what I’m doing,” said McNamara, who is now playing the game fulltime. “We played a lot together over the winter and he just said, ‘You have the talent, just keep going after what you want and practice hard.’”

The winner of the Leinster Youths title in 2008 and a member of the Leinster senior interprovincial team, 22-year old McNamara played for Ireland against the Metropolitan Golf Association of New York in 2009.

However, his ambition is to win a full senior international cap in August when Ireland hosts the Home International Matches at County Sligo.

He certainly showed that gritty determination is not the sole preserve of European Tour star McGrane among Kells golfers.

Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock) on the 11th tee. Photo credit - Jenny Matthews www.newsfile.ieA stiff north wind and squally showers made life tough for the early starters but McNamara kept his head down to produce the round of the day,

Starting on the back nine, he chipped and putted brilliantly to open with nine successive pars before racing home in four under 33 as he birdied the first, second and then came close to an ace at the par-three fifth, where his eight iron tee shot hit the hole and lipped out.

After a tap in birdie there he parred the next three holes before signing off with a birdie at the ninth to set a clubhouse target of 141 that was only bettered by Dunbar late in the day

“It was cold and windy this morning and I was happy to get through the front nine in level par,” McNamara said. “My aim was to shoot something around par going out and then try and pick up a few shots coming in and I managed to do that.

“I made a few good up and downs on the back nine and then made a good start after the turn and could have had a lot of birdies to be honest but didn’t hole the putts.”

With the cut for the leading 51 players falling at five over par 149, no fewer that 50 players are within eight shots of Dunbar entering the final two rounds.

His fellow Walker Cup aspirant, teenaged Ballymena star McElroy, is just a shot adrift in a tie for second with McNamara and Galway star McCormack after a grinding 71 that featured three birdies and two bogeys.

“I played rubbish but my chipping any putting saved me,” said 17-year old McElroy, who outweighed bogeys at the sixth and 13th with birdies at the par-five second, third and 18th holes.

Forrest Little’s Eoin Arthurs, the 2009 champion, fired a 70 to lie just two strokes off the pace on two under alongside Headfort’s Brian Casey with Portmarnock’s Geoff Lenehan (71) and County Louth’s Gareth Bohill (72) a further shot back.

Dunbar was playing alongside a pair of experieced campainers in the shape of Cavan talent McCormack (71) and Limerick’s Pat Murray, who ws runner up to Ken Kearney in the 2001 East.

Murray is hoping to find a “spark” at Baltray today that might light up his challenge for the East of Ireland title after a three under 69 that could have been two or three shots better.

The 39-year old Tipperary nativea, a joint runner up behind Cutler in last month’s Irish Amateur Close at Shannon, is frustrated that his excellent play from tee to green hasn’t be rewarded so far.

“The game has been there all year but I need to be patient,” said Murray after hitting 17 greens in regulation. “It’s frustrating to play that kind of golf and not to convert it into good scores, but it will come.”

Shane Smyth (Co.Louth) on the 3rd. Credit: Jenny Matthews www.newsfile.ieHe went out in three up par by sandwiching a birdie four at the long sixth between a brace of birdie twos at the fifth and seventh, where he holed from 20 feet and three feet respectively.

Another 20 footer dropped at the 11th to leave him four under for the day but after a bunkered tee shot cost him his only bogey of the day at the 16th, he was disappointed not to get up and down from just short of the 18th green, lipping out from four feet for his birdie.

The cut for the top 51 fell at five over par 149 with Shane Smyth, a son of Baltray legend Des Smyth, making it on the mark after rounds of 70 and 79.


East of Ireland Amateur Open (Par 72 - Moday tee times below)

After 36 holes:

140 A Dunbar (Rathmore) 68 72

141 R McNamara (Headfort) 73 68, D McElroy (Ballymena) 70 71, E McCormack (Galway) 70 71

142 E Arthurs (Forrest Little) 72 70, B Casey (Headfort) 69 73

143 G Lenehan (Portmarnock) 72 71, G Bohill (Co. Louth) 71 72

144 P Murray (Limerick) 75 69, J Hopkins (Skerries) 70 74, C Martin (Kilkenny) 69 75

145 C Campbell (Warrenpoint) 74 71, R Bridges (Stackstown) 73 72, C Molloy (Ardee) 72 73, A Hogan (Newlands) 72 73, D Holland (Castle) 71 74, C Selfridge (Knock) 70 75

146 L Ashby (Killerig) 74 72, H Diamond (Belvoir Park) 74 72, J Hume (Rathsallagh) 73 73, D Coghlan (The Royal Dublin) 73 73, J Hiluta (Chelmsford) 73 73, C Boggan (Co. Meath) 73 73, C Fairweather (Knock) 73 73, E Stack (Ballybunion) 70 76

147 B McSweeney (Woodbrook) 78 69, S Ward (Co. Louth) 75 72, D Murphy (Portarlington) 74 73, A Kiernan (Forrest Little) 71 76, M Durcan (Co. Sligo) 70 77

148 R Cannon (Laytown & Bettystown) 76 72, A Kearney (Castlerock) 74 74, L Lennox (Moyola Park) 74 74, R Whitson (Mourne) 74 74, W Telford (Rathmore) 73 75, J Lyons (Birr) 72 76, P Cullen (Royal Tara) 71 77, B Fennelly (The Royal Dublin) 71 77

149 D Morgan (Mullingar) 78 71, I Brennan (Greenore) 76 73, G McDermott (Co. Sligo) 75 74, R McCarthy (The Island) 75 74, S Bryan (Delgany) 74 75, N Gorey (Muskerry) 73 76, G McGrane (The Royal Dublin) 73 76, C Doran (Banbridge) 73 76, I O’Rourke (Cork) 72 77, S Smyth (Co. Louth) 71 78, R O Donovan (Lucan) 71 78, S O Connor (Skerries) 71 78, G Kelly (Co. Louth) 69 80

Non- Qualifiers:

150 C O’Rourke (Naas) 77 73, B Anderson (Co. Sligo) 76 74, K McDonagh (Athlone) 76 74, J Pierse (Grange) 76 74, P Sheehy (Newcastle West) 76 74, C Rafferty (Greenore) 75 75, D Crowe (Dunmurry) 75 75, J McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown) 75 75, R Kenny (Woodlands) 74 76, C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 74 76, A Doran (Ardee) 74 76, K Crowley (Lee Valley) 73 77

151 S Walsh (Baltinglass) 78 73, G Dunne (Seapoint) 78 73, A Dowling (Hermitage) 78 73, G O Flaherty (Cork) 77 74, S Crowe (Dunmurry) 77 74, N Grant (Knock) 76 75, S McGlynn (South County) 76 75, K Shannon (Greenore) 71 80

152 J Greene (Carlow) 77 75, E Smith (Ardee) 77 75, D Reilly (Westmanstown) 77 75, D Lally (Mullingar) 76 76, B Walton (The Island) 76 76, S Carter (Stackstown) 75 77, C Sharvin (Ardglass) 74 78, J Carvill (Warrenpoint) 74 78, A Kelly (Charleville) 74 78, J Fox (Portmarnock) 74 78, J Monaghan (The Royal Dublin) 74 78, D Downie (Sutton) 72 80, D Murray (Skerries) 72 80

153 P Purdy (Shandon Park) 79 74, J Dillon (Headfort) 77 76, C Robinson (Largs) 76 77, S Morrison (City of Derry) 76 77, L Harnett (Milltown) 76 77, D Coyle (Co. Louth) 75 78, G Mungovan (Headfort) 75 78, P Small (Bangor) 74 79, P O’Leary (Lucan) 74 79

154 N Beirth (Co. Louth) 81 73, B Ronan (Co. Louth) 79 75, C Glynn (Carton House) 76 78, D Manifold (Rathsallagh) 76 78, R Leonard (Banbridge) 74 80, J Hanby (Castle) 74 80

155 D O’Sullivan (Strandhill) 78 77, M O Toole (Lucan) 77 78, A Condren (Greystones) 74 81, W Hanna (Kilkeel) 72 83

156 G Lawlor (Newbridge) 80 76, M Brett (Portmarnock) 80 76, D O’Donovan (Muskerry) 79 77, M Mullen (Wexford) 78 78, D King (Tramore) 77 79, M Duffy (Naas) 77 79, M Buggy (Castlecomer) 77 79, D Ruddy (Co. Tipperary) 77 79, S Barry (Laytown & Bettystown) 77 79, G Moynihan (The Island) 76 80

157 G Boyd (Donaghadee) 84 73, M Hammond (Moyola Park) 81 76, K Purcell (Dun Laoghaire) 80 77, J Keenan (Old Conna) 79 78, D Hallissey (Muskerry) 78 79, J Richardson (Royal Portrush) 78 79, A McCloy (Ballymena) 78 79, S Ryan (The Royal Dublin) 76 81

158 D Foy (Laytown & Bettystown) 82 76, R McCormack (Naas) 79 79, R Durnin (Laytown & Bettystown) 79 79, R Mackie (Waterkloof SA) 79 79, D Beattie (Castlerock) 78 80

159 R Walsh (Kilkenny) 83 76, K Mackenzie (Bruntsfield Links) 82 77, C McGrogan (Newbridge) 81 78, A Duffy (Royal Tara) 78 81, G McAuley (Dunmurry) 78 81, E O’Sullivan (The Island) 77 82, R Gribben (Warrenpoint) 77 82, K Cummings (Elm Park) 76 83, P O’Kane (Moyola Park) 75 84

160 L Doran (Ardee) 79 81, S O’Connor (Carton House) 79 81

161 C Crawford (Knock) 80 81, A Lynch (Royal Tara) 78 83

162 D Carroll (Grange) 85 77, S McCarthy (Black Bush) 83 79, D Barry (Mahon) 82 80, J Hall (Whittlebury Park) 82 80, D Loftus (Swinford) 80 82

164 D O’Neill (Carton House) 77 87

166 T O’Connor (Athlone) 81 85

167 C Akers (Bankstown) 79 88

NR  G McGee (Malone) 77 NR, D O’Connor (Athlone) 85 NR, B Corcoran (Roganstown) 80 NR

RT  G Smyth (Clonmel) 84 RT

WD  R Weldon (Killeen Castle) 82 WD, C O’Malley (Westport) 79 WD, N O’Hare (Castleknock) 90 WD

Monday’s tee times

1st (10th tee)

7.00 (12.00) Kelly, O’Connor, O’Donovan

7.10 (12.10) Smyth, O’Rourke, Doran

7.20 (12.20) McGrane, Gorey, Bryan

7.30 (12.30) McCarthy, McDermott, Brennan

7.40 (12.40) Morgan, Fennelly, Cullen

7.50 (12.50) Lyons, Telford, Whitson

8.00 (1.00) Lennox, Kearney, Cannon

8.10 (1.10) Durcan, Kiernan, Murphy.


10th (1st tee)

7.00 (12.00) Ward, McSweeney, Stack

7.10 (12.10) Fairweather, Boggan, Hiluta

7.20 (12.20) Coghlan, Hume, Diamond

7.30 (12.30) Ashby, Selfridge, Holland

7.40 (12.40) Hogan, Molloy, Bridges

7.50 (12.50) Campbell, Martin, Hopkins

8.00 (1.00) Murray, Bohill, Lenehan

8.10 (1.10) Casey, Arthurs, McCormack

8.20 (1.20) McElroy, McNamara, Dunbar.