In brief: Keenan regal at Castle Dargan Golf
LIVERPOOL'S Ian Keenan grabbed the initiative with a sensational 65 at Castle Dargan but the Irish trio of Tim Rice, Brian McElhinney and Brendan McCarroll ensured the home flag flew high as the EuroPro Tour action opened yesterday on Darren Clarke's Co Sligo creation.
Limerick man Rice and Donegal duo McElhinney and McCarroll were prominent in a seven-man tie for fourth after shooting four-under par 67s in the first round of this 54-hole event.
Ballyliffin's former Irish Boys' Champion McCarroll (26) was helped by a brace of eagles on Castle Dargan's par-five sixth and 10th holes.
In all, 11 Irish figured among the 38 who broke par in sublime conditions yesterday, though Keenan's closest pursuers were Scot Kevin McAlpine and England's James Freeman, after both took route 66 into a tie for second.
Ireland have been given a boost with the news that Niall O'Brien is likely to be fit for their RSA Challenge One Day International clash with Australia at Clontarf on June 17.
Following consultations with his club doctor and a specialist, it was decided that an operation on the index finger of his left hand was not required at this stage.
The wicket-keeper damaged the finger towards the end of the 2009 county season, and it flared up again in February during the ICC World Twenty20 qualifying competition in Dubai.
Ireland's winter schedule is still being finalised, with games against Zimbabwe, and a possible sub-continent tour ahead of the 2011 World Cup on the agenda.
Jonny Wilkinson has insisted he will be fit for England's first Test against Australia in Perth on June 12.
The Toulon out-half suffered rib damage in the Amlin Challenge Cup final and had been advised by club medics to avoid all contact training until just three days before the game.
But Wilkinson, who has not played in Australia since dropping the goal that won England the 2003 Rugby World Cup, is chomping at the bit for a swift return to action.
"Injury-wise I'm fine," Wilkinson said after England's 44-man squad arrived in Perth.
"I took a knock in the back in our last game of the season. I've already had a week (without contact work) and I'm being held back by the physios rather than anything else at the moment."