Hurling clash leaves South out of bounds for Davy Fitz
THE small matter of an All-Ireland hurling quarter-final seems certain to rule Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald out of the South of Ireland Amateur Open.
Fitzgerald, who brings the Banner County to Thurles on Sunday for their clash against Galway, has entered the South, which opens at Lahinch on Saturday.
The first-round draw pairs Fitzgerald, who plays out of Dromoland GC and entered the South off a 0.8 handicap, in a Clare 'derby' with Kieran Cunnane of Woodstock. They are due to tee-off at 2.30.
A keen and competitive golfer, the Banner boss (right) has played in the South on a number of occasions, reaching the third round back in 2007.
However, he is most unlikely to tee it up at Lahinch this year as, should he play and beat Cunnane, he would go forward to a Sunday afternoon match against Gary Collins of Rosslare.
Former Waterford sharpshooter Paul Flynn has already got off to a good start, getting a bye into Sunday's second round.
Reigning South of Ireland champion Pat Murray showed he is a man in form by carving out two victories in the men's inter-provincial series yesterday. Murray (42), who reached the South final last year after seven semi-final defeats over a period of almost 20 years, finally clinched the championship he most coveted 12 months ago.
And though he is aware that no South winner has successfully defended since Michael Guerin of Killarney did it in 1961 and '62 en route to an eventual hat-trick, Murray is eager for the fray.
Before he gets to Lahinch, Murray's priority is assisting Munster in the men's inter-provincials at Lee Valley, where the cream of the crop in amateur golf are in action until tomorrow.
Murray gained full points from his two matches yesterday in the Munster v Connacht clash. In the foursomes he partnered Geoff Lenehan to a 2&1 victory over Barry Anderson and Steffan O'Hara, before gaining a 3&2 singles win against Kelan McDonagh.
The inter-pros continue today and once it is completed, the golfers will swarm to Lahinch for the final GUI 'Major' of the season. Play begins on Saturday in this match play championship, and will conclude next Wednesday with the semi-finals and final.
Among the elite competing are former South winner and current Irish Amateur Open champion Robbie Cannon, Murray, who also has an Irish Close title on his CV, and fellow ex-South champions John Greene (2010), Stephen Walsh (2011), and Simon Ward (2006).
Elsewhere, the Maguire twins, Leona and Lisa, spearhead a strong Irish challenge in the European Ladies Amateur Championship, which starts at Turku in Finland this morning.
They will both be anxious to erase the memories of lacklustre displays in last month's British championship in Wales and the failure of Ireland to make the top-flight in the European Team Championship at Fulford recently.
Leona was well below her usual standards in the Vagliano Trophy, which Great Britain and Ireland lost to the Continent of Europe.
But in the past the Slieve Russell teenagers have produced some inspirational golf in this prestigious championship, making a significant impact, and they are truly fired up again for this 72-hole contest.
Lisburn's Paula Grant is in fine fettle, having won the Irish Close Championship after qualifying for the knockout stages of the British event at Machynys Peninsula.
Maria Dunne was disqualified from the British Championship for using distance-measuring devices, which are banned by the Ladies Golf Union, but she will have no fear of that this week as such devices are allowed by the European Golf Association. Jessica Carty is also in the field in Finland.
Twenty-four countries are represented, as French ace Celine Boutier defends the title she won in Slovenia in 2012.