Rafferty and Dawson chase English duo in Nations test
Ireland had to dig deep to keep England in their sights after the opening day of the European Nations Championship in Spain.
Dundalk's Caolan Rafferty and Tramore's Robin Dawson chiselled out level-par 72s in windy conditions to share fifth place at Real Club de Golf Sotogrande where England's Todd Clements and Gian Marco Petrozzi carded 69s to lead by two strokes from team-mate Matthew Jordan and the Czech Republic's Juri Zuska on three-under-par.
Castle's Alex Gleeson is tied 23rd after making a hole-in-one in a rollercoaster 76 but with a 77 by Naas' Jonathan Yates the discarded score, Ireland lie 11 strokes behind England in the team standings on seven-under par in second place.
"We're content with second place day one but we will need to play well tomorrow to keep in touch with England," team manager John White said.
Steady "Robin and Caolan were very steady, but it was tougher coming in for the boys as the wind got up later in the day."
Gleeson holed an eight-iron from 191 yards for his ace at the eighth, but like Yates, he struggled over the closing stages, running up a triple-bogey seven at the 15th and a double-bogey six at the 16th.
"It was very tricky out there," Dawson said after mixing four birdies with four bogeys in his 72.
"The greens are rolling at about 11 or 12 on the stimpmeter, and it's windy too, so they're drying out. The course is fantastic, but you need to commit and think through carefully."
Ireland finished second in the team event last year with Dawson the individual runner-up behind Wales' Jack Davidson, who turned pro after the Walker Cup.