Colin Woodroofe putts it up to rivals to lead East of Ireland

Former Blainroe talent (22) bidding to stop Paul O’Hanlon winning rare back-to-backs

Dún Laoghaire's Colin Woodroofe will be praying that his putter remains red hot as he bids to hold on to a two-stroke lead and deny Carton House's Paul O'Hanlon the chance to become the first back-to-back winner of the East of Ireland for 24 years.

The 22-year-old former Blainroe talent putted like a god as he chiselled out a level par 72 in fresh southerly winds at a firm and testing Co Louth to lead on five under par.

The Wicklow man birdied the par-five third and sixth going out and then bogeyed the 10th and 16th coming home.

And he’s hoping that he continues to putt as well as he did yesterday, when he holed a string of crucial par putts, including a six-footer at the eighth, a 10-footer at the ninth, a 20-footer at the 12th and 10-footers at the 14th and 15th to keep his nose in front.

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“I hit it better on the front nine and turned in two under but my putter was really saving me on the back nine,” said Woodroofe, who is completing a master’s in economics at Maynooth University.

“Once I got started today the nerves went away, so hopefully I can do it tomorrow. I will just try to stick to my pre-shot routine, and if I can keep my putting going, that will be key.”

Tough task

He faces a tough task against 32-year old defending champion and former professional O’Hanlon, who is trying to become the first back-to-back winner since Raymie Burns in 1993.

A wire-to-wire winner 12 months ago, the former Irish Close champion only has eyes for silverware since he regained his amateur status last year after four years on the mini tours.

And he has a great chance after a superb third-round 69 left him alone in second place on three-under par on a day when the field averaged 75.75.

Starting on the back nine, O’Hanlon followed a bogey at the 11th with three birdies in a row from the 13th to turn in two under.

He then rolled in a 60-footer for an eagle at the third, when his attempted lay-up snuck through the gap and rolled down to the edge of the green, before following a birdie at the sixth with a bogey at the seventh.

“Having won this before, it’s not like I’m feeling, ‘Wow, this is my only chance’. But I’d love to go back to back,” said O’Hanlon, who is now an accountant. “That would be cool.

“I play golf now just to have good experiences, and to do something that hasn’t been done for a while would be special.”

Portmarnock's Geoff Lenehan will make up the final three-ball, five off the lead on level par after a 70 that promised to be much better before he bogeyed the 16th and 18th.