McClean off to flying start with 66 at Baltray
Matthew McClean (Malone) driving at the 2nd tee during the final round of The d Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club last year. Picture by  Pat Cashman

Matthew McClean (Malone) driving at the 2nd tee during the final round of The d Hotel sponsored East of Ireland Championship at County Louth Golf Club last year. Picture by Pat Cashman

Malone's Matthew McClean is hoping that his decision to play full-time golf this year will pay off with a maiden championship win and he's made a good start after opening with a six-under 66 in the East of Ireland Amateur Open at County Louth.

The 25-year-old Ulster interprovincial, who was a beaten semi-finalist in last year's North of Ireland Championship at Royal Portrush, made seven birdies and a bogey in a southerly breeze in Baltray.

He leads by one stroke from 43-year old Gary Cullen from Portmarnock Links and Tandragee's William Small on a day when 46 players broke par in The d Hotel sponsored event.

"The weather was as good as it will ever be around there," said McClean, who also opened with a 66 last year and finished tied 15th behind South Africa’s Christo Lambrecht, who was unable to defend.

"The course was playing lovely, the rough was down and it was pretty receptive as well, so if you hit good shots, you had chances. But you still had to play very well to get it around in 66 and I was happy enough to do that."

After holing from off the green for birdie at the first, McClean made a tidy birdie four at the second, then missed a handful of chances before rolling in a brace of 12 footers for birdies at the eighth and ninth to turn in 33.

He got up and down from 80 yards at the 332-yard 14th to move to five under and while he was disappointed to plug a ball in a bunker and bogey the 15th, he rolled in a 30 footer for a two at the 17th and then two-putted the 18th from 20 feet for his seventh birdie of the day.

Eugene Smith (The Links Portmarnock)

Eugene Smith (The Links Portmarnock)

"I also had a decent start in the East last year, and it's a golf course I feel comfortable on and know well," added McClean, who turns 26 next Friday and makes no secret of the fact that he'd like to add a few senior wins to his CV.

"I decided to try playing full-time golf this year after spending the last three years working in Coventry. I just wanted to take a year out to play golf and see what standard I can get to. 

"The professional game is still a long way off and I will have to shoot a lot more 66's to compete at that level. But I had a nice finish to win the Rosapenna Scratch Cup on nine-under at the start of the year so hopefully that's a sign that a few more good results are on the way."

Playing consistently well this year, 1999 Irish Amateur Open winner and former tour player Cullen made five birdies in a bogey-free 67 to share second with Small, who started birdie-birdie eagle before mixing five birdies with four bogeys after that.

Portmarnock Links' Eugene Smith finished the day in a five-way tie for fourth with Rosslare's Paul Murphy, Oughterard's Devin Morley and visitors Oliver Brown from Wales and Yuran Premlall of South Africa after four-under 68s's.

Former winners Colm Campbell and Paul O'Hanlon and reigning Munster Strokeplay champion, Joe Lyons were sitting in the nine-man group on three-under with Massereene's Tiarnan McLarnon a shot further back after a 70.

Of the rest of the Irish senior panel in action, Douglas' Peter O'Keeffe and Naas' Robert Brazill carded one-under 71's but Galway's Ronan Mullarney took seven at the 18th and signed for a 73 that leaves him with work to do to make the top 42 and ties who will play the last two rounds on Monday.

He goes into Sunday’s second round tied for 74th with Palmerstown House Estate's Quentin Carew, who had four birdies, one bogey, three double bogeys, and a hole-in-one at the 17th (his eighth) in an adventurous 73.
East of Ireland 2019

East of Ireland Amateur Open, County Louth Golf Club (Par 72) 

Sponsored by The D Hotel

Detailed scores

Round one

66 M McClean (Malone)

67 G Cullen (Links Portmarnock), W Small (Tandragee);

68 E Smith (Links Portmarnock), O Brown (Wal), Y Premlall (South Africa), P Murphy (Rosslare), D Morley (Oughterard);

69 C Campbell (Warrenpoint), S Walsh (Portmarnock), C Dullaghan (Greenore), J Lyons (Galway), S Desmond (Monkstown), R McCormack (Palmerstown House Estate), P O'Hanlon (Carton House), H Foley (Royal Dublin), P Murray (Clontarf);

70 S Flanagan (Portmarnock), J Duminy (South Africa), G Dunne (Co. Louth), L Power (Galway), A Doran (Co. Louth), A Lowry (Esker Hills), G O'Mahony (Fota Island), D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh), T McLarnon (Massereene), S Ryan (Royal Dublin), R Clarke (Island), S Murphy (Portumna), H O'Hare (Fortwilliam), K Egan (Carton House), C Ryan (Dun Laoghaire);

71 D Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), R Williamson (Holywood), A Ryan (Thurles), P O' Keeffe (Douglas), D Coghlan (Portmarnock), G Bohill (Co. Louth), P O'Brien (Co Louth), R Brazill (Naas), J Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), J Blake (Island), P McKeever (Castle), F O'Sullivan (Tralee), C Burke (South Africa), D Flynn (Carton House);

72 E Griffin (Waterford), A McCabe (Links Portmarnock), J Madden (Royal Portrush), S Simpson (South Africa), J Whelan (Newlands), J Mackin (Dundalk), S Mark (West Waterford), B Best (Rathmore), D Shaw (Belvoir Park), G Smyth (Clonmel), D Coyle (Portmarnock), J Greene (Portmarnock), A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), P Buckley (USA), C Jarvis (South Africa), M Vorster (South Africa);

73 N Hearns (Mountrath), R Lyons (USA), J Fox (Portmarnock), R McNelis (Fintona), S Carter (Royal Dublin), D Lowry (Corrstown), E Murphy (Dundalk), R Moran (Castle), B Murray (Waterford Castle), J Hood (Galgorm Castle), R Mullarney (Galway), Q Carew (Palmerstown House Estate), M Boucher (Carton House), J Gourley (Shandon Park), G Lenehan (Portmarnock);

74 R Knightly (Royal Dublin), M Deasy (Lee Valley), J Rowe (Tandragee), A Wilson (Portmarnock), P Coughlan (Castleknock), R Cannon (Balbriggan), D Brady (Co. Sligo), T Ford (Co. Sligo), H Gillivan (Westport);

75 R Symington (Lisburn), H Duggan (Kilkenny), F Kennedy (Island), I Lynch (Rosslare), M O'Rourke (Royal Tara), C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire), M Saulez (South Africa), D Crawford (Bundoran), J Rackard (Enniscorthy), D McAleenon (Edenmore), M McKinstry (Cairndhu), J Monaghan (Royal Dublin);

76 G McDermott (Carton House), E O'Brien (Clontarf), K Bornemann (Douglas), S Greenberg (Tandragee), R O'Doherty (Enniscrone), R Latimer (Knock), J McCarthy (Grange), L Hutchinson (Royal Dublin), D O'Neill (Links Portmarnock), J Mc Donnell (Forrest Little), J Walsh (Castle), R O'Connor (Co. Sligo), J Sabir (Moate);

77 G Ward (Kinsale), W Russell (Clandeboye), D Leufer (Athenry), K Murphy (Dun Laoghaire), D Sweeney (Killeen Castle), T O'Connor (Athlone);

78 M McCormack (Moss Creek/The Island), K McCormack (Portarlington), P Connolly (Killeen Castle), A Smith (Mullingar), J Tuohy (Galway Bay);

79 P O'Connor (Macroom), D Joyce (Powerscourt), R Browne (Castle);

80 M Nolan (Dun Laoghaire), C Nolan (Galway), J Temple (Portmarnock), C Butler (Kinsale);

82 G Copeland (Ardglass);

83 G Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick), R Evans (Wal).

Sunday’s Tee-times

10th

07:30 Colm Jnr Campbell (Warrenpoint), Paul O'Hanlon (Carton House), Eugene Smith (Links Portmarnock)

07:41 Jason Rackard (Enniscorthy), James Temple (Portmarnock), Peter McKeever (Castle)

07:52 William Small (Tandragee), Marc Boucher (Carton House), Marc McKinstry (Cairndhu)

08:03 Ben Best (Rathmore), David Joyce (Powerscourt), Ruairi O'Connor (Co. Sligo)

08:14 Marc Nolan (Dun Laoghaire), Sean Ryan (Royal Dublin), Liam Grehan (Mullingar)

08:25 James Monaghan (Royal Dublin), A.J. McCabe (Links Portmarnock), Rhys Evans (Wal)

08:36 Darragh Flynn (Carton House), Jack Blake (Island), Stephen Barker (Mourne)

08:47 Jack Walsh (Castle), G Smyth (Clonmel), Hugh O'Hare (Fortwilliam)

08:58 Gerard Copeland (Ardglass), Conor Ryan (Dun Laoghaire), Mark O'Rourke (Royal Tara)

09:09 Alan Lowry (Esker Hills), Harry Gillivan (Westport), Declan O'Neill (Links Portmarnock)

09:20 Fergal O'Sullivan (Tralee), Liam Power (Galway), Jack Madden (Royal Portrush)

1st

07:30 Daniel Sweeney (Killeen Castle), Jack Hearn (Tramore), Eoin Murphy (Dundalk)

07:41 Darren Leufer (Athenry), Gareth Bohill (Co. Louth), Gavin Fitzmaurice (Balcarrick)

07:52 James McVicker (Knock), Cathal Butler (Kinsale), Stefan Greenberg (Tandragee)

08:03 Ryan O'Doherty (Enniscrone), Adam Doran (Co. Louth), Paraic Connolly (Killeen Castle)

08:14 Karl Bornemann (Douglas), Jack Tuohy (Galway Bay), Fergal Kennedy (Island)

08:25 Robert Browne (Castle), Keith Murphy (Dun Laoghaire), John McCarthy (Grange)

08:36 Jamal Sabir (Moate), Eoin O'Brien (Clontarf), Oliver Brown (Wal)

08:47 Harry Duggan (Kilkenny), Quentin Carew (Palmerstown House Estate), Jonathan Gourley (Shandon Park)

08:58 Gary Ward (Kinsale), Karl McCormack (Portarlington), Dave Lowry (Corrstown)

09:09 Mark Shanahan (West Waterford), Aaron Ryan (Thurles), Adam Smith (Mullingar)

09:20 Josh Mackin (Dundalk), Ian Lynch (Rosslare), Greg O'Mahony (Fota Island)

10th 

12:30 Mel Deasy (Lee Valley), Casey Jarvis (RSA), Ronan Mullarney (Galway)

12:41 Yurav Premlall (RSA), Peter O' Keeffe (Douglas), Alexander Wilson (Portmarnock)

12:52 Martin Vorster (RSA), Keith Egan (Carton House), Daniel Coyle (Portmarnock)

13:03 Matthew McClean (Malone), Jordan Duminy (RSA), Tiarnan McLarnon (Massereene)

13:14 Paul Coughlan (Castleknock), Sam Simpson (RSA), Marc McCormack (Moss Creek/ Island)

13:25 Devin Morley (Oughterard), Robert Brazill (Naas), Christiaan Burke (RSA)

13:36 Jordan Hood (Galgorm Castle), T J Ford (Co. Sligo), Padriag O’Connor (Macroom)

13:47 Matt Saulez (RSA), Alan Fahy (Dun Laoghaire), Robert Cannon (Balbriggan)

13:58 David Brady (Co. Sligo), Gerard Dunne (Co. Louth), Paul Buckley (USA)

14:09 Gary Cullen (Links Portmarnock), Redmond Lyons (USA), Eanna Griffin (Waterford)

14:20 Joe Lyons (Galway), Ben Murray (Waterford Castle), Robert Moran (Castle)

1st

12:30 Sean Flanagan (Co. Sligo), Geoff Lenehan (Portmarnock), Thomas O'Connor (Athlone)

12:41 Richard Knightly (Royal Dublin), Jack Mc Donnell (Forrest Little), Jake Rowe (Tandragee)

12:52 Hugh Foley (Royal Dublin), David Reddan Jnr (Nenagh), Sean Desmond (Monkstown)

13:03 Paul Murphy (Rosslare), Jake Whelan (Newlands), James Fox (Portmarnock)

13:14 Gary McDermott (Carton House), Pat Murray (Clontarf), David Shaw (Belvoir Park)

13:25 Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock), Colin Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire), Ryan McNelis (Fintona)

13:36 Rory Williamson (Holywood), Darragh Coghlan (Portmarnock), Cian Dullaghan (Greenore)

13:47 Padraic O'Brien (Co. Louth), Ross McCormack (Palmerstown House Estate), John Greene (Portmarnock)

13:58 David Foy (Laytown & Bettystown), Niall Hearns (Mountrath), Shaun Carter (Royal Dublin)

14:09 Ross Latimer (Knock), Rhys Clarke (Island), William Russell (Clandeboye)

14:20 Darragh Crawford (Bundoran), Jamie Sutherland (Galgorm Castle), Sam Murphy (Portumna)