Civil war on Bull Island - The Island's Moynihan and LeBlanc lead Irish Amateur Open
 Gavin Moynihan (The Island) after shooting a course record 65 in the third round of the 2015 Irish Amateur Open Championship pctured on the 18th green at The Royal Dublin Golf Club today (09/05/2015). Picture by  Pat Cashman

Gavin Moynihan (The Island) after shooting a course record 65 in the third round of the 2015 Irish Amateur Open Championship pctured on the 18th green at The Royal Dublin Golf Club today (09/05/2015). Picture by Pat Cashman

The Island’s Gavin Moynihan fired eight birdies a sensational course record 65 to snatch a share of the lead with teenage clubmate Kevin LeBlanc entering Sunday’s final round of the Irish Amateur Open at Royal Dublin.

The 20-year old Walker Cup star, who has been struggling for form this year, stormed to the turn in five under par 30 and came home in two under 35 to shave a stroke off the previous best of 66 set by Scotland’s Lloyd Saltman en route to victory in 2007 and equalled by Belgium’s Rutger Dhondt in 2011.

LeBlanc, the reigning Junior Open champion who turned 17 on Wednesday last, chipped in for birdie at the 17th before holing a six footer for another birdie at the last for a 68 and a share of the lead with 2012 champion Moynihan on six under par, four clear of the field.

 Kevin LeBlanc (The Island) looking at the line of his putt on the 4th green in the third round of the 2015 Irish Amateur Open Championship at The Royal Dublin Golf Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Kevin LeBlanc (The Island) looking at the line of his putt on the 4th green in the third round of the 2015 Irish Amateur Open Championship at The Royal Dublin Golf Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

“I can’t explain how happy I am,” said Moynihan, who was four over for the championship with eight holes to play on Friday and worrying about the cut line. “To shoot seven under around here, it’s probably one of the top three rounds I’ve ever played.”

The flame-haired Dubliner had to birdied three of his last six holes to salvage a 76 in the worst of the rain on Friday. He admitted he was thinking about the cut but he recovered in world class fashion and continued in the same vein yesterday to be 10 under for his last 24 holes.

The leading pair are four strokes clear of Naas’ Jonathan Yates (71) and Welshman Richard James (71) with overnight leader Jack Hume slipping seven shots off the pace after a disappointing 78.

Moynihan, who became the youngest winner of the title at the age of 17 in 2012, birdied the first, second, sixth, seventh and ninth to turn in 30.

He then chipped in for birdie at the 10th, dropped his only shot of the day at the 13th and birdied the 16th and 17th to set the target before LeBlanc matched his total of six under 210 with that late brace of birdies.

Winner of last year's Scottish Strokeplay Championship, Moynihan did not feel he was truly struggling for form but simply paying a high price for a bad shot or two per round earlier this year

Gavin Moynihan (The Island) driving at the 14th tee. Picture by Pat Cashman

Either way, he's happy to be back on home turf in Europe having taken the courageous decision before Christmas to leave the University of Alabama — the top college side in the US when he joined them after the 2013 Walker Cup — after suffering a loss of form.

He's regarded as a shoo-in for this year's Walker Cup side, providing he shows reasonable form. But with the likes of British Amateur champion Bradley Neil expected to turn professional, the R&A selectors are keen to have experience in the side to go with what could be a raft of young guns.

Richard James

Tom Gandy

Jonathan Yates. All pictures by Pat Cashman

Le Blanc would need to win today and back it up with more top level performance to have any chance of selection ahead of the likes of 16-eya told Marco Penge, who slipped seven off the pace on one over after a 73.

Penge is tied with overnight leader Jack Hume, who was bitterly disappointed to shoot a 78 having carded a miraculous 70 in Friday's storm to lead.

The Naas man opened with seven par but then four-putted the eighth for a doubler bogey six and had little luck after that, dropping another four shots in the last seven.

He may well recover on Sunday but there are too many ahead of him on the leaderboard and with LeBlanc and Moynihan both comfortable in the wind, it looks like a two horse race.

Both James and 2013 Irish Close semi-finalist Yates, a former Maynooth University player now on a scholarship at UCD, are playing well enough to contend from just four back while the one unders — Hermitage's Rowan Lester (70), Baltray's Thomas Mulligan (71), the Isle of Man's Tom Gandy (second last year, 72) and Ardglass' Cormac Sharvin (72) all lurking five back on one under, the tournament is in the hands of LeBlanc and Moynihan.

The 2012 champion wants the wind to blow and LeBlanc, who got some crucial experience under his belt against top opposition like Spain's Mario Galiano in some 72-hole events early in the season, is not fazed.

Jack Hume (Naas) watching his birdie putt on the 3rd green in the third round. Picture by Pat Cashman

He's not averse to wind and he's got no pressure on him compared to Moynihan and little to lose. In fact, like Lester, Mulligan and several others, he could play his way into the reckoning for a place in the Irish senior team for the Home Internationals at Royal Portrush as many of the top players are in position to qualify for the clashing US Amateur Championship in they can make the world's Top 50 in time.

LeBlanc is the only player in the field to card three sub-par rounds and after starting birdie-birdie and then picking up another shot at the 11th, he shrugged off a failed bunker save at the 12th and a three-putt par from long range at the 16th by chipping in for birdie at the  17th and then hitting a three iron to six feet at the last for a closing birdie and a 68.

"I'm very pleased," LeBlanc said. "I didn't expect to shot a round as good as that, though I did play very well. What pleased me most was how well I committed to all my shots — I didn't lose focus as I sometime do. 

"I was nervous at the start to be honest and I was still nervous before the turn even though I started birdie-birdie. The birdie on 11 was important and I wasn't too worried about slopping into the bunker on 12 and dropping one there. 

"A few putts slipped buy on 14, 15 and 16 but I finished well, holing one with a new Vokey wedge I put in the bag on Tuesday."

After hitting a two iron off the tee at the last followed by a 207-yard three-iron he aimed left but pushed slightly to end up six feet away, he was clearly delighted. 

Now his task is to live with the vastly experienced Moynihan when they go off together in the final two-some at 11:45am. 

"It's a one-on-one but I am going to try and play the way I did the last three days and do my own thing," LeBlanc said. "I didn't play that often with Gavin, though we get on and we're friends."

As for the distraction of what a win might mean, LeBlanc said: "I'm not thinking about that. there is a long way to go — a five-hour round — and a lot of good shotes to be hit."

FINAL ROUND TEE TIMES

  1. 08:09 Braeunig, Jordan
  2. 08:18 Gleeson, Loftus 
  3. 08:27 Rafferty, Galbraith
  4. 08:36 Arthurs, Harry 
  5. 08:45 Fairweather, Anderson
  6. 08:54 Coulson, Flanagan 
  7. 09:03 Boasson, O’Rourke
  8. 09:12 Smith, Cea
  9. 09:21 Cullen, Trocado
  10. 09:30 Bleakley, Marchbank
  11. 09:39 Bridges. Carter
  12. 09:48 Bessa, Hopkins
  13. 09:57 Poppleton, Allan
  14. 10:06 McLarnon, Hurley
  15. 10:15 Iten, Grehan
  16. 10:24 Collins, Hume
  17. 10:33 Penge, McElroy
  18. 10:42 Ferguson, Grant
  19. 10:51 Whelan, Griffith
  20. 11:00 Ross, Lipold
  21. 11:09 Campbell Jnr, McDonald
  22. 11:18 Sharvin, Gandy
  23. 11:27 Mulligan, Lester
  24. 11:36 Yates, James
  25. 11:45 LeBlanc, Moynihan.

AFTER 54 HOLES

Hole by hole scores

QUALIFIERS

210 Gavin Moynihan (The Island) 69 76 65, Kevin LeBlanc (The Island) 71 71 68 

214 Richard James (Wales) 69 74 71, Jonathan Yates (Naas) 72 71 71 

215 Rowan Lester (Hermitage) 72 73 70, Thomas Mulligan (Co. Louth) 69 75 71, Tom Gandy (Isle of Man) 71 72 72, Cormac Sharvin (Ardglass) 72 71 72 

216 Jack McDonald (Scotland) 72 75 69, Colm Campbell Jnr (Warrenpoint) 69 77 70, Lukas Lipold (Austria) 70 73 73, Craig Ross (Scotland) 71 72 73, Evan Griffith (Wales) 69 72 75 

217 Jake Whelan (Newlands) 76 72 69, Aaron Grant (Dundalk) 75 72 70, Ewen Ferguson (Scotland) 76 70 71, Dermot McElroy (Ballymena) 70 76 71, Marco Penge (England) 71 73 73, Jack Hume (Naas) 69 70 78 

218 Gary Collins (Rosslare) 70 77 71, Stuart Grehan (Tullamore) 72 74 72 

219 Marco Iten (Switzerland) 72 76 71, Gary Hurley (West Waterford) 71 76 72, Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 78 68 73, James Allan (England) 74 72 73 

220 Nicholas Poppleton (England) 77 72 71, Jeff Hopkins (The Royal Dublin) 70 76 74, Tomas Bessa (Portugal) 72 72 76 

221 Shaun Carter (The Royal Dublin) 73 77 71, Richard Bridges (Stackstown) 73 77 71, Greig Marchbank (Scotland) 72 77 72, Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park) 74 74 73, Luke Trocado (South Africa) 69 79 73, Seamus Cullen (Slieve Russell) 71 74 76 

222 Michele Cea (Italy) 78 76 68, Eugene Smith (Ardee) 77 74 71, Conor O'Rourke (Naas) 73 75 74, Axel Boasson (Iceland) 77 70 75, Sean Flanagan (Co. Sligo) 76 71 75, Damon Coulson (England) 75 72 75, Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) 74 72 76, Colin Fairweather (Knock) 69 76 77, Tim Harry (Wales) 71 74 77

223 Eoin Arthurs (Forrest Little.) 75 77 71, John Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) 70 82 71, Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) 74 76 73, Declan Loftus (Castlebar) 77 72 74, Alex Gleeson (Castle) 76 73 74, Matthew Jordan (England) 74 75 74, Christian Braeunig (Germany) 72 75 76,  

NON-QUALIFIERS

224 Markus Habeler (Austria) 72 82 70, Ollie Roberts (Hong Kong) 71 80 73, Marcel Zillekens (Germany) 74 76 74, Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) 74 74 76, John Hickey (Cork) 72 75 77 

225 Robin Dawson (Faithlegg) 70 85 70, Connor Syme (Scotland) 71 81 73, Nick MacAndrew (Scotland) 77 74 74, Alexander Culverwell (Scotland) 69 76 80 

226 Gordon Stevenson (Scotland) 78 77 71, Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle) 78 77 71, Murray Naysmith (Scotland) 82 72 72, James Fox (Portmarnock) 79 75 72, William Enefer (England) 70 83 73, Ryan Symington (Lisburn) 74 78 74 , Jarand Ekeland Arnoy (Norway) 75 77 74 , Mathias Eggenberger (Switzerland) 77 74 75 , Ben Best (Rathmore) 77 72 77 , Sean Ryan (The Royal Dublin) 76 70 80, Marc Nolan (Delgany) 72 72 82 

227 Ronan Mullarney (Galway) 76 80 71, Michael Sinclair (Knock) 74 79 74, Seve Prins (Netherlands) 83 69 75 

228 Anthony Blaney (Scotland) 75 80 73, Jamie Savage (Scotland) 73 82 73, Stephen Coulter (Warrenpoint) 75 80 73, Kevin Reints (Netherlands) 74 76 78 

229 Claudio Consul (Germany) 75 80 74, Colin Baird (Scotland) 77 76 76 

230 Gary McDermott (Carton House) 76 82 72, Michael Hegemann (Germany) 78 79 73, Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 74 80 76 

231 Cedomir Ilic (Serbia) 80 77 74 

232 Simon Bryan (Delgany) 75 84 73, Eoin Leonard (Wentworth) 77 81 74, Jack Bush (Wales) 79 79 74, Paul Coughlan (Moate) 83 75 74, Kyle McCarron (North West) 72 86 74, Jack Mc Donnell (Forrest Little.) 73 81 78, Stephen Healy (Carton House) 77 76 79 

233 Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) 78 80 75, Edward Richardson (England) 76 81 76, Scott Gibson (Scotland) 73 80 80 

234 Michael Hirmer (Germany) 73 88 73, Gianmaria Rean Trinchero (Italy) 77 84 73, Ian O'Rourke (The Royal Dublin) 76 83 75, James Smedley (England) 78 80 76, Ashley Mason (England) 82 74 78 

235 Sigot Lopez (Spain) 77 82 76, Declan O'Neill (Carton House) 77 80 78, Mark Morrissey (Mount Wolseley) 72 84 79 

236 Shane McGlynn (Carton House) 81 82 73, Michael Ludwig (Austria) 74 84 78, Robert Cannon (Balbriggan) 76 81 79, Andy Borg (Malta) 75 80 81 

237 Adam Wilson (Wales) 75 81 81 

239 Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick) 79 82 78, Roy Connolly (Palmerstown Stud) 80 80 79, Christopher MacLean (Scotland) 75 85 79, Petr Dedek (Czech Republic) 81 79 79 

242 Shaun O'Connor (Carton House) 75 85 82 

245 Casper Simberg (Finland) 85 80 80 

246 Mel Loetscher (Switzerland) 81 90 75, Jan Szmidt (Poland) 76 91 79 

249 Thomas Hackett (USA) 84 90 75 

WD/NR John McGinn (Laytown & Bettystown) 82 78 NR, Vitor Lopes (Portugal) 72 84 WD, Johannes Lube (Germany) 79 89 WD, John Morris (Rosslare) 76 WD, Mark Shanahan (Castlemartyr) 79 WD