AIG Irish Close: Mullarney curbs his inner Tiger to top qualifiers
 Ronan Mullarney (Galway) silver medalist at the AIG 2018 Irish Amateur Close Championship at The European Club today (04/08/2018). Picture by  Pat Cashman

Ronan Mullarney (Galway) silver medalist at the AIG 2018 Irish Amateur Close Championship at The European Club today (04/08/2018). Picture by Pat Cashman

Few remember who led the qualifiers 12 years ago when Rory McIlroy successfully defended his crown at The European Club.

But whatever Galway’s Ronan Mullarney or Dun Laoghaire’s Keith Murphy do after they meet in today’s first round of matchplay combat, they will remember their 36-hole joust with Pat Ruddy’s links chessboard in the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship.

 Leading qualifer Ronan Mullarney (Galway) with the playoff qualifers (from left) Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush), Thomas Neenan (Lahinch), Owen Crooks (Bushfoot) and Keith Murphy (Dun Laoghaire) at the second day of the AIG 2018 Irish Amateur Close Championship at The European Club. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Leading qualifer Ronan Mullarney (Galway) with the playoff qualifers (from left) Peter Kerr (Royal Portrush), Thomas Neenan (Lahinch), Owen Crooks (Bushfoot) and Keith Murphy (Dun Laoghaire) at the second day of the AIG 2018 Irish Amateur Close Championship at The European Club. Picture by Pat Cashman

Murphy ended up in a playoff for the last four spots in the matchplay draw as nine players tied on 12-over 154, eventually progressing with Royal Portrush’s Peter Kerr, Bushfoot’s Owen Crooks and Lahinch’s Thomas Neenan.

As for Mullarney, the 22-year old Maynooth University scholar claimed the silver medal in brilliant fashion, adding a four-under 67 to his opening 72 to by a stroke from Portmarnock’s Conor Purcell on three-under par.

Emboldened by a super, bogey-free 66 by Douglas’ Peter O’Keeffe in Saturday’s opening round, he took no chances and picked off his birdies when he could — at the first, 13th, 14th, 16th and 17th — as Purcell shot a brace of 70s.

“I was looking at Peter’s score yesterday and I just thought it was the most amazing  score I’d ever seen,” Mullarney said of the bogey-free 66 which the big Corkman followed with a 76 to make to share third place with Dundalk’s newly crowned South of Ireland champion Caolan Rafferty and Belvoir Park’s Marc Norton on level par.

“I knew the greens were soft but 66 around here I thought was brilliant. I suppose he showed me it could be done. I didn’t quite do what he did but not a million miles away.”

Mullarney birdied the first but he has such respect for The European Club, even in relatively benign conditions, that he took no chances at the terrifying 482-yard, par-four seventh, laying up with his approach before getting up and down from 50 yards for par.

“I’ll probably get some slagging for it,” added Mullarney, who bogeyed eighth but then birdied four of his last six with the highlight a three-iron to five feet at the 17th. where his drive was too far left and caught the bank before kicking down.

“The main aim, everyone will tell you, is just to quality whether that’s 64th or first… You’re there to qualify not to look like Tiger Woods.”

Purcell, 21, started birdie-par-eagle and while he bogeyed the eighth, ninth and 10th to slip back to level par, he birdied the 13th and 14th and  dropped just one more shot at the 16th, when he was forced to declare his ball unplayable in a bush.

“Had a bit of a hiccup, three bogeys in a row got me back to square one,” said the Dubliner whose run to the semi-finals of the Amateur Championship and his seventh-place finish in the European Amateur Championship earned him a Great Britain and Ireland call-up for the St Andrews Trophy. 

“But I made a few birdies on the back nine, kept it solid the whole way and never really got out of control.”

For those with long memories, the Island’s Andrew Pitcher edged out McIlroy for the silver medal in 2006 but lost to the Holywood star in the quarter-finals.

It's the measures of a quality course that it allows the cream to rise to the top and that was no exception at The European Club where all the big guns made it through to the matchplay.

Such are the vagaries of the open draw that Kinsale's John Murphy (20), the St Andrews Links Trophy winner, must now face veteran Gary Cullen (42)  from Beaverstown, the Irish Amateur Open champion of 1999.

AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship, The European Club (Par 71)

Round one — August 6

7am at 8-minute intervals

Live scores

  1. R Mullarney (Galway) v K Murphy (Dun Laoghaire);
  2. P McKeever (Castle) v M Boucher (Carton House);
  3. P O’Connor (Macroom) v J McCabe (Roganstown);
  4. D Brophy (Castleknock) v J Rowe (Tandragee);
  5. M Ryan (New Ross) v C O’Connor (Corrstown);
  6. G Collins (Rosslare) v R O'Connor (Co Sligo);
  7. P Coughlan (Castleknock) M McKinstry (Cairndhu);
  8. R Williamson (Holywood) v R Cannon (Balbriggan);
  9. M Norton (Belvoir Park) v P Kerr (Royal Portrush);
  10. R Lester (Hermitage) v M Mullen (Rosslare);
  11. S Carter (Royal Dublin) v N Hearns (Mountrath);
  12. J Lyons (Galway) v A Gleeson (Castle);
  13. P O'Keeffe (Douglas) v N Crawford (Mourne);
  14. G Cullen (Beaverstown) v J Murphy (Kinsale);
  15. R Latimer (Knock) v J Walsh (Castle);
  16. C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) v G Lenehan (Portmarnock);
  17. C Purcell (Portmarnock) v T Neenan (Lahinch);
  18. J McDonnell (Forrest Little) v S McDermott (Co Cavan);
  19. O Devereux (Carton House) v N McCann (Lurgan);
  20. J Sugrue (Mallow) v D Lowry (Corrstown);
  21. M McClean (Malone) v H Gillivan (Westport);
  22. S Irwin (Killeen) v R Moran (Castle);
  23. E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown) v T Plunkett (Crover House);
  24. TJ Ford (Co Sligo) v H Foley (Royal Dublin);
  25. C Rafferty (Dundalk) v O Crooks (Bushfoot);
  26. J Blake (The Island) v E Leonard (Wentworth);
  27. A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) v P Connolly (Killeen Castle);
  28. A Smith (Mullingar) v K Stack (Dungarvan);
  29. G Ward (Kinsale) v S Walsh (Portmarnock);
  30. M McCormack (Moss Creek) v C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown);
  31. C Butler (Kinsale) v R Dutton (Tandragee);
  32. J Hickey (Cork) v J Byrne (Baltinglass)
  • Round 2 – Last 32 – 12 noon at 15 minute intervals.

Qualifiers (*After 9-man playoff for four spots on 154)

Detailed scores

139 R Mullarney (Galway) 72 67 (Leading qualifier)

140 C Purcell (Portmarnock) 70 70

142 C Rafferty (Dundalk) 71 71; M Norton (Belvoir Park) 68 74; P O'Keeffe (Douglas) 66 76

143 G Ward (Kinsale) 71 72

144 M McClean (Malone) 75 69; M Ryan (New Ross) 74 70; P Coughlan (Castleknock) 73 71; E Smith (Laytown & Bettystown) 72 72

145 C Butler (Kinsale) 75 70; R Latimer  (Knock ) 74 71; S Carter (Royal Dublin) 70 75

146 A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) 73 73; O Devereux (Carton House) 71 75

147 P O'Connor (Macroom) 75 72; D Brophy (Castleknock) 74 73; J Sugrue (Mallow) 73 74; A Smith (Mullingar) 72 75

148 J Lyons (Galway) 78 70; C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) 75 73; J Hickey (Cork) 75 73; T Ford (Co. Sligo) 74 74; R Williamson (Holywood) 72 76; G Collins (Rosslare) 71 77

149 S Irwin (Killeen) 76 73; M McCormack (Moss Creek) 76 73; G Cullen (Beaverstown) 76 73; R Lester (Hermitage) 75 74; J Blake (The Island) 75 74; J McDonnell (Forrest Little) 74 75; P McKeever (Castle) 74 75; M Boucher (Carton House) 69 80

150 S McDermott (Co. Cavan) 80 70; E Leonard (Wentworth ) 76 74; M Mullen (Rosslare) 75 75; J Murphy (Kinsale) 74 76; C Geraghty (Laytown & Bettystown) 72 78; R Moran (Castle) 70 80; R O'Connor (Co. Sligo) 70 80

151 R Cannon (Balbriggan) 78 73; H Foley (Royal Dublin) 77 74; J Byrne  (Baltinglass) 76 75; G Lenehan (Portmarnock) 74 77; A Gleeson  (Castle) 74 77

152 K Stack (Dungarvan) 80 72; D Lowry (Corrstown) 77 75; J Rowe (Tandragee) 75 77; J McCabe (Roganstown) 75 77; N McCann (Lurgan) 74 78; P Connolly (Killeen Castle) 73 79; N Hearns (Mountrath) 73 79; J Walsh (Castle) 72 80; R Dutton (Tandragee) 71 81

153 T Plunkett (Crover House) 78 75; M McKinstry (Cairndhu) 78 75; C O'Connor (Corrstown) 77 76; H Gillivan (Westport) 76 77; S Walsh (Portmarnock) 75 78; N Crawford (Mourne) 75 78

*154 P Kerr (Royal Portrush) 80 74; O Crooks (Bushfoot) 77 77; T Neenan (Lahinch) 76 78; K Murphy (Dun Laoghaire) 76 78; 

Non-qualifers

154 R Brazill (Naas) 74 80; P Brennan (Belvoir Park) 78 76;  J Whelan (Newlands) 82 72; J McCarthy (Stackstown) 81 73; D Holland (Castle) 77 77;

155 E Griffin (Waterford) 79 76; J Greene (Portmarnock) 75 80; J Knipe (Royal Portrush) 73 82;

156 S Flanagan (Co. Sligo) 84 72; D Coyle (Portmarnock) 81 75; A McCormack (Castletroy) 78 78; G Carr (Mullingar) 78 78; S Watts (Cairndhu ) 75 81;

157 M Burke (Galway) 83 74; J Maginn (Mourne) 82 75; M Nolan (Dun Laoghaire) 80 77; M Looby (Greystones) 79 78; G O'Mahony (Fota Island) 79 78; G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick) 79 78; S Lindsay (Ardglass) 79 78; A Ryan (Thurles) 78 79; H O'Hare (Fortwilliam) 74 83;

158 K Lynch (Skibbereen) 76 82; C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire) 74 84; W Small (Tandragee) 72 86;

159 J Madden (Royal Portrush) 81 78; D Smith (Newlands) 80 79; T Beaumont (Bangor) 80 79; D Flynn (Carton House) 78 81; D O'Neill (Carton House) 74 85;

160 J Hanney (The Island) 83 77; N Gaffney (Greystones) 80 80; M McHugh (Abu Dhabi National) 79 81; M Tyndall (Coyote Creek) 79 81; R Steedman (Courtown) 77 83;

161 I Collins (Bray) 83 78; K Murray (Charlesland) 80 81; R Black (Hilton Templepatrick) 80 81; D Crawford (Bundoran) 80 81; S Myatt (Ennis) 80 81; R Knightly (Royal Dublin) 80 81; J Fox (Portmarnock) 79 82;

162 S Carroll (Castle Dargan) 87 75; D Joyce (Powerscourt) 81 81;

163 M Healy (Kinsale) 86 77; J Keane (Lahinch) 82 81; M McKenna (Dun Laoghaire) 82 81;

164 W Russell (Clandeboye) 88 76; R O'Doherty (Enniscrone) 85 79; E Farrell (Ardee) 84 80; M Buggy (Castlecomer) 81 83; J Conroy (Portmarnock) 79 85;

165 C Dowling (Mallow) 83 82; R McKeever (Castle) 79 86;

166 R Berkeley (Dun Laoghaire) 78 88;

167 D Pollock (Belvoir Park) 83 84; A Crinion (Newlands) 82 85; E Goggin (Tralee) 81 86; L Hutchinson (Royal Dublin) 81 86;

168 C Feeney (Co. Sligo) 82 86; R McCormack (Palmerstown House Estate) 81 87;

170 E Rumley (Kinsale) 82 88;

171 C Glennon (Glasson) 84 87; S Walsh (Carton House) 84 87;

172 C French (Carton House) 86 86; J McGrath (Dun Laoghaire) 85 87; R Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) 80 92;

174 R Connolly (Grange) 90 84; C Coghlan (Newlands) 87 87;

177 T Collins (Dun Laoghaire) 85 92;

181 E McKeever (Castle) 87 94; S Crilly (Wembley (Au)) 84 97

RTD R Pierse (Grange) 82

NR E O'Brien (Clontarf) 81

RTD M Shiel (Galway Bay 84); M Kennelly (Galway Bay) 85

WD L McMillan (Luttrellstown Castle) 91

RTD J Tuohy (Galway  Bay) 81; D Rochford (Bray) +11

NR G McGrane (Royal Dublin) +11