Big guns bite the dust in wild West
Michael Ryan (New Ross) tees off in round two

Michael Ryan (New Ross) tees off in round two

Leading qualifier Conor O'Rourke, defending champion Jonny Yates and internationals John-Ross Galbraith, Alex Gleeson, Tiarnan McLarnon and Colin Fairweather bowed out on day one of the Radisson Blu Sligo sponsored West of Ireland Amateur Open at County Sligo.

Errors were severely punished in a freezing west wind that gusted to 35mph, and it turned out to be an ill-wind for many of the favourites.

While leading qualifier O'Rourke cruised into the second round with a 4 and 3 win over former runner-up Eanna Griffin, he surprisngly fell to 17-year old qualifier Robert Abernethy from Dun Laoghaire by 3 and 2 in the afternoon.

A fifth-year student at Blackrock College and the Leinster Under-15 champion three years ago, Abernethy had so little confidence in his chances that he travelled west for Wednesday's qualifier with little more than his wet gear, his clubs and a change of clothes.

But after carding a 74 to earn his place his first senior championship, he surprised himself by shooting two 74s to qualify with ease, then won his first two matches to find only Naas' Robert Brazill standing between him and a place in the quarter-finals.

"I wasn't expecting to get through the pre-qualifier, to be honest, but I played solidly and then played solidly in the strokeplay and the two rounds today," said the teenager, who now plays off scratch after being cut for his three qualifying rounds.

Par golf was enough for Abernethy against the highly fancied O'Rourke, who won the first when Abernethy three-putted but lost the second, third, sixth and seventh to find himself three down.

He won the eighth to cut the gap to two holes, but Abernethy birdied the ninth to restore his three-up advantage before closing out match at the par-three 16th in front his beaming parents Bronagh and Colum.

There were few smiles from many of the other big names with former North and Irish Close champion Galbraith two up with two to play before losing to former Leinster Boys champion Michael Ryan from New Ross at the 19th in the first round.

An archive picture of Robert Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) en route to victory in the Leinster Boys Under 15 Close Championship at Ashbourne in 2014. Picture by  Pat Cashman

An archive picture of Robert Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) en route to victory in the Leinster Boys Under 15 Close Championship at Ashbourne in 2014. Picture by Pat Cashman

"I am delighted," 20-year old Ryan said. "He was playing well and I got one up after 12, then lost two holes in a row, horseshoed out on 15 for a win, then got a bad lie on 16 and found myself two down. 

"I knew if I parred 17 I had a chance and I hit a good drive and he hit a poor one. 

"So I parred 17 to win, birdied the 18th from four feet to force tie holes and the hit it to seven feet on the 19th and holed the birdie putt."

Ryan would go on to lose 6 and 5 to former runner-up Stephen Healy who now faces Portmarnock's Jack Pierse in the third round.

Defending champion Yates lost 2 and 1 to 19-year old Hugh Foley from Royal Dublin, who had made the cut for the first time in only his third senior championship start

"It was a battle," said Foley, who now meets Newlands' Jake Whelan after going on to beat Dun Daoghaire's Ted Collins in the afternoon.

"I was two up after two, and he got back to one up after 12.  And from then on I was one under for the next four or five holes."

Foley birdied the 14th to square the match, then took advantage of Yates' problems to win the 15th and 16th in pars and go two up before closing out the match with a long-range two-putt par at the 17th.

Gleeson was the next big name to fall in the opening round, going down to a near 30-foot birdie putt by Royal Dublin's Barry Anderson, a native of nearby Ballincar and a former Co Sligo member, on the 21st.

Two down with three to play, he won the 16th, then followed a miraculous par save at the 17th with a birdie from five feet at the 18th to force tie holes before losing a quality game to Anderson's birdie four.

With qualifier Abernethy coming through at the top of the draw, there's still a chance he could meet another 17-year old qualifier in strapping Dundalk talent Eoin Murphy, who surprised McLarnon 6 and 5 before going on a run to come from two down to beat Richard Knightly with a tremendous run of winning holes and reach the last 16.

A powerful talent, Murphy faces County Sligo’s David Brady — an 18th green birdie giving him a come-from-behind win over Alan Lowry— though there are several more ex-County Sligo clubmen still in with a chance of becoming the first home winner since Cecil Ewing in 1950.

The chief "home" candidate must now be Ballincar's Barry Anderson, now playing out of Royal Dublin, after he beat Irish Close champion Gleeson by running in a slick 30 footer at the 21st.

Gleeson was two down with three to play but won the 16th to cut the gap to one hole, remained alive but saving a tremendous par at the 17th and then birdied the last from four feet to force extra holes.

The Castle and UCD talent had a chance inside 10 feet at the 19th but after Anderson lipped out at the 20th, he closed the door at the par-five 21st by holing a 30-footer for birdie and now meets the talented Ulsterman Jordan Hood.

Carton House’s Gary McDermott, another long time Co Sligo contender and also a native of Ballincar, beat Knock international Fairweather 2 and 1 in round two and now takes on a fellow "veteran" in 38-year-old Robbie Cannon from Balbriggan, the former South of Ireland and Irish Amateur Open champion.

West of Ireland Amateur Open, Co Sligo


Round three - Monday, April 17

  1. (08:00) Robert Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) v Robert Brazill (Naas)
  2. (08:10) David Reddan Jnr (Nenagh) v William Small (Tandragee)
  3. (08:20) Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) v Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire)
  4. (08:30) Stephen Healy (The Royal Dublin) v Jack Pierse (Portmarnock)
  5. (08:40) Hugh Foley (The Royal Dublin) v Jake Whelan (Newlands)
  6. (08:50) Gary McDermott (Carton House) v Robert Cannon (Balbriggan)
  7. (09:00) Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle) v Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin)
  8. (09:10) David Brady (Co. Sligo) v Eoin Murphy (Dundalk)

Round two - Sunday, April 16

  1. Robert Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) bt Conor O’Rourke (Naas) 3/2
  2. Robert Brazill (Naas) bt Stephen Barker (Mourne) 1 hole
  3. David Reddan Jnr (Nenagh) bt Evan Farrell (Ardee) 4/3
  4. William Small (Tandragee) bt Robert Moran (Castle) 4/2
  5. Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) bt Andrew Hickey (Ballyhaunis) 3/2
  6. Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) bt Alan Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) 4/2
  7. Stephen Healy (The Royal Dublin) bt Michael Ryan Jnr (New Ross) 6/5
  8. Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) bt Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) 4/3
  9. Hugh Foley (The Royal Dublin) bt Ted Collins (Dun Laoghaire) 3/2
  10. Jake Whelan (Newlands) bt Bryan Martin (Killymoon) 1 hole
  11. Gary McDermott (Carton House) bt Colin Fairweather (Knock) 2/1
  12. Robert Cannon (Balbriggan) bt Ronan Mullarney (Galway) 3/2
  13. Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle) bt William Russell (Clandeboye) 3/2
  14. Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) bt Luke Donnelly (Kilkenny) 7/6
  15. David Brady (Co. Sligo) bt Alan Lowry (Esker Hills) 1 hole
  16. Eoin Murphy (Dundalk) bt Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) 3/2

Round one - Sunday, April 16

  1. Conor O’Rourke (Naas) bt Eanna Griffin (Waterford) 4/3
  2. Robert Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) bt Thomas Neenan (Lahinch) 3/2
  3. Stephen Barker (Mourne) bt Ben Best (Rathmore) 1 hole
  4. Robert Brazill (Naas) bt Sean Desmond (Monkstown) 4/3
  5. Evan Farrell (Ardee) bt Noel Crawford (Mourne) 5/4
  6. David Reddan Jnr (Nenagh) bt T J Ford (Co. Sligo) 1 hole
  7. Robert Moran (Castle) bt Stephen Brady (Galway) 2/1
  8. William Small (Tandragee) bt Allan Hill (Athenry) 22nd
  9. Andrew Hickey (Ballyhaunis) bt Jordan Logue (Hilton Templepatrick) 7/6
  10. Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) bt Ross Dutton (Tandragee) 2/1
  11. Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) bt Mark Morrissey (Co. Sligo) 20th
  12. Alan Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) bt Paul Coughlan (Moate)1 hole
  13. Michael Ryan Jnr (New Ross) bt John-Ross Galbraith (Whitehead) 19th
  14. Stephen Healy (The Royal Dublin) bt Jack Walsh (Castle) 1 hole
  15. Jamie Fletcher (Warrenpoint) bt Michael Reid (Galgorm Castle) 2/1
  16. Jack Pierse (Portmarnock) bt Geoffrey Lenehan (Portmarnock) 2/1
  17. Hugh Foley (The Royal Dublin) bt Jonathan Yates (Naas) 2/1
  18. Ted Collins (Dun Laoghaire) bt Stuart Bleakley (Shandon Park) 3/1
  19. Bryan Martin (Killymoon) bt Andrew Morris (Belvoir Park) 2/1
  20. Jake Whelan (Newlands) bt Peter Cummins (Lurgan) 5/4
  21. Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt John Greene (Portmarnock) 8/7
  22. Gary McDermott (Carton House) bt Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick) 7/6
  23. Ronan Mullarney (Galway) bt Bob Loftus (Lahinch) 6/5
  24. Robert Cannon (Balbriggan) bt David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown) 4/3
  25. William Russell (Clandeboye) bt Shane Hogan (Nenagh) 2/1
  26. Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle) bt Paul Flynn (Tramore) 2/1
  27. Luke Donnelly (Kilkenny) bt Conor Ryan (Dun Laoghaire) 5/4
  28. Barry Anderson (The Royal Dublin) bt Alex Gleeson (Castle) 21st
  29. David Brady (Co. Sligo) bt Paul Carey (Nenagh) 1 hole
  30. Alan Lowry (Esker Hills) bt Anthony McDaid (Palmerstown Stud) 3/2
  31. Richard Knightly (The Royal Dublin) bt Marc Nolan (Delgany) 3/2
  32. Eoin Murphy (Dundalk) bt Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene) 6/5