McClean sets the pace in Mullingar
Matt McClean (Malone). Picture:  Pat Cashman

Matt McClean (Malone). Picture: Pat Cashman

Malone's Matthew McClean produced a blistering finish to take a two-stroke lead into the final 36 holes of the Sherry Fitzgerald Davitt & Davitt sponsored Mullingar Scratch Trophy.

While rain and high winds made life more challenging for the later starters, McClean was off in the second group of the day and after opening with a two-under 70, he played his last seven holes in five-under for a second round 69 to head the field on five-under-par.

"This morning was tricky, just with how soft the greens were but it was scoreable and we got the nice half of the draw," said McClean (26) after a birdie-birdie-eagle finish gave him a homeward nine of 32.

"It was pretty calm, a bit of wind, but the rain stayed away. This afternoon was much tougher. The front nine was playing very hard.

"I was two-over through nine going the opposite way, but I was lucky to hole a few putts and I had a pitch in on 17 there for 5-under par for the final seven which helps the card a lot."

A former Ulster interprovincial and leading qualifier in the North last year, he is playing golf full time this season and hoping to finish the season on a high.

Ranked seventh in the Bridgestone Order is Merit, he is also in with a chance of making the Irish team with a win, depending on other results.

He leads by two strokes from County Louth's Gerard Dunne, who shot a super 68 in the afternoon, and Kinsale international John Murphy, who showed signs of more consistent form by following a 70 with a 71 to share second on three-under-par.

A member of Ireland's six-man team last year, Murphy has had a disappointing season by his high standards and he's looking to put things right when he returns to the University of Louisville later this month,

"Disappointing obviously," Murphy said of his year. "It certainly hasn't gone the way I'd hoped. It is what it is. I just have to move on and deal with it and just look forward because it's no good looking back.

"All round everything's just been a little bit off this summer and one thing led to another. I lost a little bit of confidence.

"Today was the first day in a long time that I held a couple of putts so it's nice to get that confidence back and hopefully I can push on from there."

Oughterard's Devin Morley, Castleknock's Paul Coughlan, Forrest Little's Jack McDonnell and Warrenpoint's Colm Campbell are well placed, just four shots off the lead on one-under in the final event of the Bridgestone Series.

The top three points winners will earn international call ups for next month's Home Internationals at Lahinch.

Carton House's Keith Egan, who is ranked fifth in the Bridgestone Order of Merit, is lurking just five shots off the lead on level par on level par alongside Holywood’s Rory Williamson after a brace of 72s.

And while AIG Irish Close winner Ronan Mullarney (absent due to Senior Cup duties for Galway) holds down top spot, the man he beat in the final in Ballybunion is looking to overtake him on Sunday.

Naas' Robert Brazill (22) needs only a top 15 finish to top the Bridgestone Order of Merit and while he struggled for energy, he somehow posted rounds of 72 and 74 to finish the day inside the top 20 on two-over

"I'm absolutely wrecked," Brazill confessed. "Bar the Bridgestone Order of Merit, I wouldn't be playing. It was a real struggle out there today. I was getting quite frustrated and stuff. I didn't get a great night's sleep either, so I'm going to go home now and rest. 

"Coming from Ballybunion to here I didn't really have a clue what to do with pitch shots and hitting balls into greens. I just couldn't get the ball close. It was very, very different.

"The greens are rolling great but it's just very different to last week. I'm just adjusting. I didn't touch a club from Wednesday until this morning."

"Top 15 is all we need!"

Just three players broke 70 in the afternoon with Carton House's Marc Boucher joining McClean and Dunne in an exclusive club with a 68 that left him on two-over.

He went out on two-over 37 to lie eight over for the tournament but played his last ten holes in seven-under by following a birdie at the ninth with a six-under back nine of 31.

Mullingar Scratch Trophy, Mullingar GC (Par 72)

Sponsored by Sherry Fitzgerald Davitt & Davitt

Scores

139 M McClean (Malone) 70 69;

141 G Dunne (Co. Louth) 73 68, J Murphy (Kinsale) 70 71;

143 D Morley (Oughterard) 73 70, P Coughlan (Castleknock) 70 73, J Mc Donnell (Forrest Little) 70 73, C Campbell (Warrenpoint) 69 74;

144 K Egan (Carton House) 72 72, R Williamson (Holywood) 70 74;

145 H Foley (Royal Dublin) 73 72, T McLarnon (Massereene) 72 73, A Fahy (Dun Laoghaire) 72 73, C Butler (Kinsale) 71 74, J Hood (Galgorm Castle) 70 75, T Dowdall (Woodbrook) 69 76;

146 M Boucher (Carton House) 78 68, E O'Brien (Clontarf) 74 72, R Brazill (Naas) 72 74, P McKeever (Castle) 72 74, R Moran (Castle) 71 75;

147 G Lenehan (Portmarnock) 75 72, C Denvir (Elm Park) 72 75, L Grehan (Mullingar) 71 76, D Flynn (Carton House) 71 76;

148 T Mulligan (Laytown & Bettystown) 74 74, O Devereux (Carton House) 74 74, M Kennedy (Royal Dublin) 72 76;

149 A Doran (Co. Louth) 77 72, D McCormack (Roganstown) 77 72, P O' Keeffe (Douglas) 76 73, W Small (Tandragee) 74 75;

150 A Grant (Dundalk) 77 73, G Carr (Mullingar) 76 74, E Griffin (Waterford) 76 74, I Lynch (Rosslare) 76 74, C Boggan (Rathcore) 76 74; R Clarke (Island) 74 76; D Marshall (Naas) 73 77; S O'Brien (Nenagh) 73 77; J Blake (Island) 71 79;

151 M McCormack (Island/Moss Creek) 77 74, R Latimer (Knock) 75 76;

152 C Woodroofe (Dun Laoghaire) 81 71, P Murphy (Rosslare) 80 72, E Farrell (Ardee) 78 74, A Lowry (Esker Hills) 77 75, J Greene (Portmarnock) 75 77;

153 H Gillivan (Westport) 78 75, J Swarbrigg (Mullingar) 77 76, D Reddan Jnr (Nenagh) 75 78, J Temple (Portmarnock) 74 79.

Missed Cut

154 D McAleenon (Edenmore) 80 74, H O'Hare (Fortwilliam) 79 75, S Flanagan (Portmarnock) 76 78, S Hogan (Nenagh) 75 79, A Smith (Mullingar) 74 80;

155 S Mark (West Waterford) 81 74, R Abernethy (Dun Laoghaire) 81 74, M Kelly (Mullingar) 80 75, S Walsh (Portmarnock) 79 76, E Murphy (Dundalk) 78 77; P Conroy (Enniscorthy) 78 77; D Tynan (Mullingar) 77 78; K McCormack (Portarlington) 77 78,;

156 A McCormack (Castletroy) 78 78, R Lester (Hermitage) 73 83;

157 R McCrory (Lurgan) 76 81;

158 J Sabir (Moate) 81 77, O Maguire (Slieve Russell) 80 78, T O'Leary (Rosslare) 78 80, J Whelan (Newlands) 77 81;

159 K Murphy (Dun Laoghaire) 84 75, M Nolan (Dun Laoghaire) 80 79, S Egan Jr. (Tullamore) 80 79, P Buckley (Memorial Golf Club) 79 80;

160 D Morgan (Carton House) 75 85;

161 A Ryan (Thurles) 81 80, E Collins (Laytown & Bettystown) 80 81;

162 E Shipp (Headfort) 82 80, J Monaghan (Royal Dublin) 81 81, S O'Connor (Castlebar) 78 84;

164 G Copeland (Ardglass) 83 81;

165 D Guinee (Trump International Dubai ) 78 87;

166 C Glennon (Glasson) 85 81;

167 C Curran (Dundalk) 86 81;

WD G Collins (Rosslare) 78 WD, Q Carew (Palmerstown House Estate) 77 WD, R Knightly (Royal Dublin) 79 WD

RTD 80 D O'Neill (Links Portmarnock)