Rafferty conquers Rosses Point in windy West of Ireland opener

Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty defied gale force winds and notched six birdies — including three in his last four holes — to post a one under 70 and lead the race to qualify for Sunday's matchplay stages of the Radisson Blu sponsored West of Ireland at Rosses Point.

The former Greenore man was the only player in the red on a day when only three players in the 120-man field shot par or better and just 66 dipped under 80. Detailed leaderboard

A steady northwester that gusted over 30 mph was more than challenging enough as Rafferty ended the day a shot clear of Castle's Alex Gleeson, the Irish Intervaristy champion, and Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon, the 2013 Irish Youths champion.

With defending champion Jack Hume and Irish Close champion John-Ross Galbraith receiving byes into Sunday's first matchplay round following their recent spell of international duty in Argentina, the objective is to finish in the top 62 after Saturday's second strokeplay qualifying round.

The man in the hot seat is Co Sligo's Steffan O'Hara, who was one of 13 players to shoot 79. But should conditions remain the same, the cut could be as high as 159, matching the carnage of 2013.

Rafferty's 70 (38-32) was an impressive score considering Gleeson's 71 had looked untouchable until it was matched by McLarnon later in the afternoon.

The objective, of course, is simply to survive and Cork's John Hickey did more than than with a 72 as local favourite Gary McDermott shot a controlled 73 to match club-mate Sean Flanagan and Balcarrick's Gavin Fitzmaurice.

Bad weather specialist Colin Fairweather (74) was matched by in the in-form Eanna Griffin while it was no surprise to see quality ball-strikers such as James Fox (Portmarnock), Robert Cannon (Balbriggan), Eugene Smith (Ardee) and Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock) post 75s.

There's work to do though for several prominent names with Limerick's Pat Murray, The Island's Kevin Leblanc, Rosslare's Gary Collins and Castle's Daniel Holland firing 80s, Richard Bridges an 81, Geoff Lenehan an 82 with Niall Gorey and Eoin Arthurs slumping to 83s.

West of Ireland Amateur Open, Co Sligo (Par 71)

Sponsored by Radisson Blu

36-hole strokeplay qualifying (click here for detailed scores)

Round One

70 Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk)

71 Alex Gleeson (Castle), Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene)

72 John Hickey (Cork)

73 Gary McDermott (Carton House), Sean Flanagan (Co. Sligo), Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick)

74 Colin Fairweather (Knock), Eanna Griffin (Waterford)

75 James Fox (Portmarnock), Robert Cannon (Balbriggan), Eugene Smith (Ardee), Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock)

76 Gary McGrane (The Royal Dublin), Kyle Harman (), Jake Whelan (Newlands), Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin), Stephen Barker (Mourne), Tom Sloman (), Roy Connolly (Palmerstown Stud), Kevin Andre Wright (), Jonathan Yates (Naas), Shaun O'Connor (Carton House), William Hanna (Warrenpoint), Michael Sinclair (Knock), Alan Thomas (Dungarvan), Devin Morley (Oughterard), Conor O'Rourke (Naas), Thomas Mulligan (Co. Louth)

77 Colm Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint), Keith Crowley (Fota Island), Eddie McCormack (Galway), Jack McDonnell (Forrest Little.), Stephen Healy (Carton House), Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley), Paul Flynn (Tramore), Stephen Kinch (Hollystown), Jamie Dick ()

78 Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin), David Sutton (Lurgan), Joe Lyons (Galway), Stephen Brady (Galway), Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle), Daniel Brennan (Shannon), Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell), Andrew McCormack (Newcastle West), Mathew Kane (Whitehead), Evan Farrell (Ardee), Jack Pierse (Portmarnock), Jimmy Feeney (), Ian O'Rourke (The Royal Dublin), Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle), Dermot McElroy (Ballymena)

79 David Kelleher (Portmarnock), Paul Coughlan (Moate), Declan Reidy (Co. Sligo), Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin), Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint), Barry Daly (Edmondstown), Thomas O'Connor (Athlone), Aaron Grant (Dundalk), Steffan O'Hara (Co. Sligo), Gareth Bohill (Co. Louth), Ben Best (Rathmore), Marc Nolan (Delgany), Des Morgan (Mullingar)

80 Kevin Leblanc (Island), Simon McConnell (Ballyclare), Jason O'Leary (Dromoland), Patrick Neville (Bearna), Gary Collins (Rosslare), Daniel Holland (Castle), Eoin Leonard (Wentworth), Sean Barry (Fota Island), Mathew McPartlin (Carton House), Mark Shanahan (Castlemartyr), Pat Murray (Limerick)

81 Kelan McDonagh (The Royal Dublin), Harry Gillivan (Westport), John Greene (Portmarnock), Edwin Hannon (Kanturk), Kevin Stack (Dungarvan), Richard Bridges (Stackstown), Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), Shane McDermott (Co. Cavan), Theo Coffey (Slieve Russell), James Lindsay (North West), Paul Murphy (Rosslare)

82 Shane McGlynn (Carton House), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock), Shaun Carter (The Royal Dublin), John Reynolds (Dungarvan), Gavin Young (Birr), Kieran Lynch (Skibbereen & West Carbery), Edward Ryan (Lucan), David Reddan (Nenagh)

83 Jonathan Gourley (Shandon Park), David Brady (Co. Sligo), Sean Alley (Co. Tipperary), Niall Gorey (Palmerstown Stud), Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little.), Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth)

84 Robert Neville (The Links Portmarnock), Tony Cleary (Dromoland), Ian Spillane (Mallow), Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin)

85 Ryan O'Doherty (Enniscrone), James McLoughlin (Portumna), Mark King (Cregmore Park), Gavin McKenna (Fortwilliam), Dale Jackson (Massereene), Greg O'Mahony (Lee Valley)

86 Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint), Colm Crowley (Woodbrook), Ian Kettyle (Rathmore)

87 Ian Lynch (Rosslare)

88 Michael Buggy (Castlecomer)

89 Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown)

93 William Russell (Clandeboye)

DQ Shane Hogan (Nenagh)