Monday 19 March 2018

Murray eager to end 'South' agony

Brian Keogh in Lahinch

Pat Murray broke his 'major' duck by claiming last year's Irish Close title but the Limerick star plans to make the 80-mile drive to Killarney tonight with a more coveted prize in the boot of his car.

Six times the Tipperary native (39) has reached the semi-finals of his beloved South of Ireland Championship and six times he has driven away a disappointed man.

This year, he's hoping it will be seventh time lucky after seeing off the talented West Waterford left-hander Mark Shanahan by two holes and then ending Lahinch hopeful Thomas Neenan's odyssey with a 6&4 quarter-final victory.

"I've lost six semi-finals but I've got a good record in finals," quipped Murray in reference to his 'Close' win at Enniscrone. "That's my only final so far. Hopefully we keep the record going tomorrow."

One of four amateurs invited to play in this week's '3' Irish Open in Killarney, Murray has enough South of Ireland baggage to fill the boot of his car several times over.

"I have come up against it a few times in semi-finals here over the years," he conceded. "It just wasn't my time but I'm feeling good about the game this time."

With many of the big names staying away, Murray is easily the best-known player to make the semi-finals of the most open South of Ireland Championship in years.

But his path to the final is barred by Carlow man John Greene (24), who broke a couple of teenagers hearts yesterday as he followed a 2&1 victory over Milltown's Liam Harnett (16) with a miraculous comeback win against talented Skerries starlet Sam Devey.

Two down with three to play against Devey, the UCD golf scholarship student finished birdie-par-birdie to win by one hole. "I don't know how I am still here to be honest," said Greene, who got some help in his quarter-final win as Devey hit his second shot out of bounds at the last.

At the top of the draw, Kelan McDonagh (20) quietly moved into the last four when he beat Old Conna's Mark Sheridan 4&3 before ousting Irish Close champion Dara Lernihan by one hole.

Looking forward to his first senior semi-final after an erratic season, he birdied the 11th and 12th to edge ahead of Lernihan and dug deep to close out the match despite losing the 17th to a par.

"I didn't have a great start to the year but I've been working hard with Brendan McDaid for the last couple of months and I've got a bit of confidence," McDonagh said.

A Paddy Harrington Scholarship student at NUI Maynooth, McDonagh faces a stiff examination against Castletroy's Cian Daly (27) in the first of today's semi-finals.

Called up for inter-provincial duty by Munster last week, Daly edged out Headfort's Brian Casey (19) by one hole but admits that he's delighted to have made it this far.

"I got to the fourth round two years ago so everything is a bonus," said the Limerick man.

Irish Independent

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