Purcell in 'South' push towards Ireland cap
Portmarnock's Conor Purcell made yet another claim on an international cap when he defied afternoon winds gusting over 20mph to open with a one-under-par 71 in the Pierse Motors-sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open.
Just eight players in the 150-strong field broke par on the pristine Co Clare links but with a fresh south-west breeze making life tough for the afternoon starters, three of the top five scores were record in the first three groups of the day.
Newlands' Jake Whelan fired a four-under 68 in the second match out, racking up and eagle and four birdies, to lead by one stroke lead from Mallow's Paul McCarthy, who was in group three. The objective is to finish in the top 64 after today's second round and qualify for the matchplay stages tomorrow.
And while the Irish selectors will have made up their minds about most of the side of next month's Home Internationals at Nairn in Scotland, performances this week may resolve a few doubts.
The Island's Paul McBride and Castle's Alex Gleeson, both of whom opened with solid 70s in the more testing afternoon conditions to share third place, are considered certain to make the trip to Scotland.
But the 71s yesterday included West of Ireland runner-up Daniel Holland, Dundalk's Aaron Grant, international John Ross Galbraith and 19-year old Portmarnock talent Purcell, whose recent performances in the Interprovincials and the North of Ireland Championship have marked him out as a potential new cap.
"It's my last championship this year," said Purcell, who is a son of Portmarnock's head professional Joey Purcell. "Well, my last unless I get the call. I head off to college in North Carolina next month but I am available, obviously, if I get picked for Ireland."
A boys international in 2014 and 2015, Purcell made the senior squad this year and impressed in the Interprovincial Championship at Fota Island, winning all three singles and four points out of six.
"Hopefully this week I can put my name in the hat and go straight from the boys into the men's team." said Purcell, who fell to eventual runner up Tiarnan McLarnon in the last 16 at Royal Portrush last week. "He went all the way to the final. So I was happy enough with the week.
"Today, I had five birdies and four bogeys and dropped a few sloppy shots on the back nine on 14 and 15 with two-iron shots that came up way short of the green. Apart from that I hit the ball very well."
Recently-crowned North of Ireland champion Sean Flanagan from Co Sligo had four birdies and four bogeys in a 72 to share ninth with Devin Morley from Oughterard, Carton House's Keith Egan, Cairndhu's Stephen Watts, former winner Robbie Cannon and American Cole Madey from Oregon, the world No 560.