FIVE Irish hopefuls are one step away from landing a European Tour card for next year having survived the penultimate stage of qualifying in Spain.
The gruelling six-round test of final qualifying now awaits Niall Kearney, David Higgins, Simon Thornton, Gareth Shaw and Chris Devlin at the PGA Catalunya Resort later this month.
They were five of 73 players to qualify from four courses across Spain, but while they prepare for the final push, a number of other Irishmen will be heading back to the drawing board after failing to make the cut.
Former Walker Cup player Kearney could even afford to card a one-over-par 72 at Lumine on the final day and still go through in joint-fifth place with a four-round total of 275, eight behind winner Liam Bond from Wales.
Irish PGA champion Higgins went one better than Royal Dublin's Kearney, finishing fourth at El Saler with a two-under 70 for a 72-hole aggregate of 283. He was five strokes adrift of Scottish champion Jamie McCleary.
At the same venue, Thornton made it safely through courtesy of a disappointing final-round 75 for a share of fifth, and Shaw, who had earlier posted a 70, held his nerve in a play-off after five men had tied for the last four places.
Devlin may have been sweating early on at Las Colinas having bogeyed the third and fourth, but the 37-year-old stayed calm and signed for a level-par 71 to finish tied for eighth on seven-under.
Tim Sluiter led a Dutch one-two at the top of the leaderboard.
Both Peter O'Keeffe and Tim Rice missed out at El Valle, their only consolation being a place on the final qualifying reserve list.
A round of 70 saw O'Keeffe into a play-off for the last berth, but it wasn't to be and Rice's 71 saw him just miss out too. Nicolo Ravano of Italy came first on 12-under.
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