Gorey and Ward to put friendship aside
Last week's Inter-provincial matches decimated the field for the South of Ireland Champion-ship, but that didn't stop Niall Gorey or Simon Ward from battling their way to a fifth-round showdown at Lahinch this morning.
Neither player was included in the 11-man Irish team for the Home Internationals named at Royal County Down last week, but they can earn a little Southern comfort this week.
With no complaints about their non-selection, they sat down in a Lahinch restaurant last night to reflect on another action-packed day at the links before retiring early to recharge their batteries for what promises to be one of the matches of the day.
"The Inter-pros have left us feeling a little leaden in the legs but we'll be up for it," said 32-year old Muskerry player Gorey, who had 10 birdies and dropped just two shots as he racked up a pair of 4&3 wins over Shannon's Paul O'Neill and Lucan's Stephen Dwyer.
Smiling, Gorey added: "I'm having dinner with Simon tonight and I'll try and resist the temptation to slip something into the dessert. It's going to be a tough match. I'll need all my beauty sleep."
Gorey was a member of the winning Munster side in the Inter-provincial matches but, while he has won three Munster Strokeplay titles, the Kildare native has yet to lift an amateur major, losing in the semi-finals at Lahinch in 2008.
Co Louth man Ward, on the other hand, lifted the South as a raw 19-year old in 2006 and looks to have the experience to make another run at the title.
At 25, and with European Team Championship and Home International wins behind him, the Carrickmacross native says he's no longer motivated by international caps.
Currently working in the golf industry after completing a series of business degrees in Belfast and the US, he proved yesterday that he's more than a handful on links terrain.
Four down after seven holes of his morning match with Balmoral's Mike McClean, he came back to level with a 10-footer on the 18th before winning it with a par at the first extra hole.
In the afternoon, he ended the hopes of American visitor Conor Casey from New Jersey as last year's beaten finalist Andrew Hogan of Newlands lost 3&2 to promising Delgany youth Simon Bryan.
Munster Youths champion Eugene Smith of Ardee will meet experienced Mullingar man Des Morgan today, while Limerick's Pat Murray kept his dream of a maiden South victory alive with comfortable wins over Ballybunion's Peter Sheehan and former international Paul O'Kane of Moyola Park.
Even if he gets past Nenagh's Shane Hogan this morning, the bad news for Murray is that he's in the bottom half of the draw.
Looming large there is defending champion Stephen Walsh of Portmarnock, who faces a tough test against Colin Fairweather of Knock -- a player described as "a seriously top-drawer ball striker" by Munster inter-provincial Geoff Lenehan following his 2&1 defeat to the 21-year-old Ulsterman yesterday.