Moynihan and Sharvin in the mix at Headfort
Emilio Cuartero Blanco. Picture: Getty Images

Emilio Cuartero Blanco. Picture: Getty Images

Gavin Moynihan and Cormac Sharvin are ready to give their all as the 2019 season comes to an end and they seek European Tour golf in 2020.

Sharvin looks almost certain to win his card via the Challenge Tour rankings and goes into the weekend at the Stone Irish Challenge tied for sixth at Headfort, just three shots off the lead after chiselling out a second successive 69.

But while Moynihan is struggling to keep his card on the main tour, he is upbeat about what lies ahead after carding a bogey-free 67 that left him just two shots behind Spain's Emilio Cuartero Blanco at the demanding Kells track.

"I have been playing well the past few months, but the Sundays have been killing me," said Moynihan (25), who is 161st in the Race to Dubai rankings but still not giving up on a big week in the Open de France or the Portugal Masters over the next few weeks.

"I am playing France and fairly confident I am in Portugal. So I will just go for it here this weekend and then give it a rip.

"It's been a nearly-year for me. I have had events I could have done better. I have missed a few cuts by one, and it's different if you are missing by six or seven shots. It's fine margins out there. You can make a cut on the number, play well on Saturday and you are in contention. And you can be in contention, make a few bogeys and suddenly you're six back."

He's loving the challenge at Headfort's New Course, where10 of the 15-strong Irish contingent made the two-over-par cut, overcoming the thick rough and blustery conditions.

"The course is great," said Moynihan, who struggled to find the right driver shaft when he eventually changed this year but has now found the perfect set up.

"You have to play well. You will be rewarded for good shots and penalised for poor ones. I made a few nice up and downs on the front nine holed a few putts and had a really good back nine.

"And the driver has been good. If you drive it well, you will have chances because there are a lof of seven, eight and nine irons into the greens.

"I got a new shaft during the season, and it took a while to get it right, and for the last two months, it has been good."

Moynihan leads the race for the Christy O'Connor Jnr Memorial Trophy awarded to the low-Irishman, and his upbeat mood bodes well, even if he has to return to the Qualifying School next month.

But there will be no Q-School this year for Sharvin, who is eighth in the race for 15 European Tour cards with four events to go and gunning for that maiden win.

The Ardglass man was pleased to shoot another 69 when not quite on his game — an art he has perfected this year.

"I didn't play great to be honest," Sharvin said. "I just fought really hard. I just managed with what I had on the day. I drove it unbelievably well yesterday and missed a few fairways today and shot the same score.

"It's just a case of getting it around today in as few strokes as possible, and I squeezed 69 out of it. That's totally what it is about on tour.

"And that's the change in me this year.

"When I don't have my best stuff, I can get it around in a decent number, and that's helped this year and showed in my scoring."

He had no plans to go looking for his swing on the range either, adding: "I don't know what a driving range looks like! I just got there to warm up. I didn't go to the range yesterday either and drove it great. It's a case of getting around with what I have."

He was pleased to see so many Irishmen doing well after he was the only one to make the cut in the NI Challenge at Galgorm Castle.

And while he'd love to grab his maiden win, he's happy to keep doing his own thing and see where that leaves him.

"I just have to keep the head down and keep going and see if that's enough come Sunday," he said. "I'd love to win here, but I can't get ahead do myself. I will just stick to what I have been doing. It's been working so far this year, and hopefully, it will happen sooner or later."

Cuartero Blanco added a 68 to his opening 67 to lead by a shot from Sweden's Oscar Lengden on nine-under-par.

He currently occupies the 100th position on the Road to Mallorca Rankings and needs to win if he is to qualify for the three remaining limited-field events this season.

"If I keep that same attitude, by the end of the week, the score won't be something I'll be thinking about because I'll be having fun, and I'll be playing golf this weekend," he said.

"But more than the score, the biggest thing is how happy I am. It feels like it doesn't matter what happens, I've just got a good attitude and it's all good."

A total of 63 players survived the 36-hole cut, which fell on two over par at a venue where thick rough and demanding conditions have added to the challenging set-up at Headfort New as the course showed its teeth again in the second round.

Conor O'Rourke (72-70), John Ross Galbraith (71-71) and Jonathan Yates (70-72) are 21st on two-under with Jonny Caldwell, David Carey and Micahel Hoey a shot further back in 38th despite struggling to a 75.

Dermot McElroy and Stuart Grehan made the cut on the mark as Robin Dawson and Paul McBride agonisingly missed out by one.

Old Conna's Neil O'Briain withdrew overnight as his wife Andrea gave birth to the couple's first child, a boy.

Day three at the Stone Irish Challenge is set to begin at 9:00 am with the leading group of Cuartero Blanco, Lengden and Moynihan set to go at 10:50 am.

Stone Irish Challenge , Headfort Golf Club (Par 72)

Detailed scores

135 E Cuartero Blanco (Esp) 67 68

136 O Lengden (Swe) 69 67

137 Gavin Moynihan (Irl) 70 67, A Cockerill (Can) 67 70, G Kristjansson (Isl) 70 67

138 B Neil (Sco) 68 70, Cormac Sharvin (Nir) 69 69, D Huizing (Ned) 67 71

139 T Murray (Eng) 71 68, M Orrin (Eng) 71 68, T Clements (Eng) 72 67, M Decottignies-Lafon (Fra) 68 71, D Perrier (Fra) 70 69, H Sturehed (Swe) 72 67

Other Irish

142 Conor O'Rourke (Irl) 72 70, John Ross Galbraith (Nir) 71 71, Jonathan Yates (Irl) 70 72

144 Michael Hoey (Nir) 69 75, David Carey (Irl) 72 72, Jonny Caldwell (Nir) 74 70

146 Dermot McElroy (Nir) 72 74, Stuart Grehan (Irl) 73 73


147 Paul McBride (Irl) 78 69, Robin Dawson (Irl) 74 73

149 Ruaidhri McGee (Irl) 73 76,

150 Rory McNamara (Irl) 74 77

WD Neil O'Briain (Irl) 72 WD