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McNamara hails influence of McGrane as he vies for 'East' crown

Headfort's Rory McNamara was inspired by words of encouragement from fellow Kells man Damien McGrane as he moved to within a shot of the lead in the East of Ireland Amateur Open at Baltray.

As title favourite Alan Dunbar battled for a 72 that left him at the head of affairs on four-under par, the 22-year-old former Leinster Youths star battled through tough morning conditions to card a best-of-the-day four-under-par 68, and secure a share second place on three-under with Galway's Eddie McCormack and Ballymena's Dermot McElroy.

The Meath man's ambition this season is make the Irish team for August's Home International Matches. And the former Boys and Youths international knows he can take a massive step in the right direction if he produces a similarly gritty performance over the final 36 holes today.

"I've played a lot with Damien McGrane over the winter and he just said, 'You have the talent, just keep going after what you want and practise hard'.

"The Home Internationals are my main goal and if I can achieve that hopefully I will look to go on to bigger things from there."

Starting on the back nine, McNamara began with nine straight pars before racing home in a four-under 33 as he birdied the first, second, fifth and ninth to set the clubhouse target at 141.

"It was cold and windy this morning and I was happy to get through the front nine in level par," he said.

"I made a few good up and downs on the back nine and then made a good start after the turn and could have had a lot of birdies to be honest but didn't hole the putts."

Walker Cup prospect Dunbar added a level-par 72 to his opening 68 to remain in front on four-under par.

"I struggled today but I still managed to get it around," he said.

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With 24 players within six shots of the lead, the championship looks set for an exciting finish.

The cut for the leading 51 players fell at five-over-par 149 with Shane Smyth, the son of former European Tour and Ryder Cup player Des Smyth, one of 13 players to make it on the mark.

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