Rory McIlroy and caddie JP Fitzgerald on Thursday. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieRory McIlroy refused to back down in his vigorous defence of his caddie following his Twitter war with pundit Jay Townsend.

The Ulsterman told the former pro and TV commentator to “shut up” and branded him a “failed golfer” after getting annoyed by Townsend’s constant criticism of JP Fitzgerald.

Rory roared: “I don’t really have any respect for the man after what he did, or after what he has done the last three years.”

Asked if he regretted getting personal, McIlroy said: “No. Not at all. I know he was on Tour for six years and he finished second in the Heineken Classic or whatever it was.  But he doesn’t need to be that opinionated.

“I don’t care if he criticises me, because I’m the golfer; I’m the one that hits the shots and I can take the criticism. It’s JP who doesn’t have to do this and can’t stand up for himself in the media.  

“I thought I just had to stand up for JP who has taken me from 200th in the world to Major Champion and now fourth in the world.  I was third at one stage.”

Asked about been branded “a spoiled brat” by a Golf Channel pundit, McIlroy laughed and said: “Well, I’m an only child; if that means I’m spoilt, I don’t know.”

Michael Hoey on the second hole. Photo Fran Caffrey/www.golffile.ieHoey avoids the bogey man

Michael Hoey raced into contention in Killarney by keeping the bogey man at bay.

The Ulster star has had just one bogey in 36 holes with rounds of 69 and 67 leaving him just three off the pace on six under.

He had an 83 in Sweden last week but he’s delighted with his steady play on home turf.

He said: “Only one bogey in 36 holes. I played well today, hit it well and hit a lot of fairways.

“I was only four under but I managed to hole a couple of good putts on the way in to get to six under which puts me in a good position for the weekend.”

Cheered on by a massive 20,215 crowd, he said: “The crowds make it a really good atmosphere and it helped me last year and definitely helped today, getting into a bit of a zone out there.

“Hopefully I can keep it going. I was really into it today and enjoyed it.”

Colm Moriarty on the 18th tee. Photo Jenny Matthews/www.golffile.ieMoriarty targets top 3 finish

Colm Moriarty has his eye on a top-three finish that could secure his European Tour card eight years after turning professional.

The Glasson pro, 32, hit a 72 to sit just six off the lead on three under knowing that a big pay day to help him escape the Challenge Tour.

Moriarty said: “A top-10 isn’t going to be a huge benefit to me. I need to concentrate on the Challenge Tour and get in through that way.

“But top two or three is where I’m looking, that’s where I need to finish to really make some progress.”

Moriarty is 215th in the money list with €23,780 thanks to a handful of European Tour starts.

But with second place worth €166,660 and third paying €93,900 he could earn enough to finish in the top 115 who get cards at the end of the season.


Barrie’s pain

Warrenpoint’s Barrie Trainor was disqualified for signing for an incorrect score.

The former Irish Assistants champion followed an opening 70 with a 75 to miss the cut on three over par only to discover after he left the scorer’s tent that he’d signed for a four instead of a five at the 11th.