Cream rises to the top at Royal Portrush
 Alex Gleeson (Castle) pictured during the Carey Cup at Galway Bay Golf Resort in May. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Alex Gleeson (Castle) pictured during the Carey Cup at Galway Bay Golf Resort in May. Picture by Pat Cashman

The cream rose to the top in the North of Ireland Amateur Open as internationals Colin Fairweather, Rowan Lester, Alex Gleeson and the in-form Caolan Rafferty made it through to the semi-finals at Royal Portrush.

Leading qualifier Rafferty from Dundalk took another step towards an international call-up when he beat Tandragee's Ross Dutton at the 19th in round three before ending the hopes of Portmarnock's Darragh Coghlan by 4 and 2 in the quarter-finals.

Rafferty will face Knock's Fairweather in the first of Friday's semi-finals with Castle's Gleeson meeting Lester from Hermitage in the other.

It's been a disappointing season for reigning Irish Close champion Gleeson but he beat Laytown & Bettystown's Eugene Smith 3 and 2 and Rosslare's Paul Murphy Paul Murphy 2 and 1 as Lester beat Cian Geraghty and Galway's Ronan Mullarney.

Fairweather had two-hole wins over Belvoir Park's Gareth Lappin and Kirkistown Castle's Derek Downie, who had knocked out three tough opponents in defending champion Sean Flanagan, Belvoir Park's Marc Norton and Kinsale's John Murphy before falling.

North of Ireland Amateur Open, Royal Portrush

Semi-finals - July 14

  1. 08:30 Colin Fairweather (Knock) v Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk)
  2. 08:45 Alex Gleeson (Castle) v Rowan Lester (Hermitage)

Quarter-finals - July 13

  1. Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt Derek Downie (Kirkistown Castle) 2 holes
  2. Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) bt Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock) 4/2
  3. Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Paul Murphy (Rosslare) 2/1
  4. Rowan Lester (Hermitage) bt Ronan Mullarney (Galway) 3/1

Round three - July 13

  1. Derek Downie (Kirkistown Castle) bt John Murphy (Kinsale) 3/1
  2. Colin Fairweather (Knock) bt Gareth Lappin (Belvoir Park) 2 holes
  3. Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock) bt Alan Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) 1 hole
  4. Caolan Rafferty (Dundalk) bt Ross Dutton (Tandragee) at 19th
  5. Alex Gleeson (Castle) bt Eugene Smith (Laytown & Bettystown) 3/2
  6. Paul Murphy (Rosslare) bt Finlay Mason (Moor Hall) 6/5
  7. Ronan Mullarney (Galway) bt Jonathan Yates (Naas) 1 hole
  8. Rowan Lester (Hermitage) bt Cian Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 2 holes