Connacht talent on display heading into final day of West of Ireland Championship

Three men from the west reach the last four as semi-finals and final take place Tuesday

Connacht won the men’s interprovincials last year and the depth in talent west of the Shannon was very much in evidence at Rosses Point on Monday as three men from the west battled their way into the semi-finals of the Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland Championship.

Nobody at County Sligo can remember three Connacht men making the last four in the 99-year history of the championship and it could be a memorable one for Roscommon Golf Club.

Allan Hill - the last man to qualify for the last 16 courtesy of a 25-foot birdie putt on the final green of the 54-hole qualifier on Sunday - showed he has the stomach for battle after he saw off two former champions in leading qualifier Caolan Rafferty 5&4 and titleholder Hugh Foley 4&2 to set up a semi-final clash with Galway’s Liam Nolan.

A Paddy Harrington Scholarship star at Maynooth University, Hill was three-under and didn’t drop a shot as he beat Dundalk’s Walker Cup player Rafferty on the 14th and having played a lot of golf already this season, he’s sharp and up for a battle.


“It was nice to beat two Irish internationals,” said Hill, who is very much a grinder and unafraid of the rigorous test presented by Rosses Point in 20mph southeasterly gusts.

“I’ve been coming to County Sligo since I was seven or eight. I remember watching Shane Lowry play here. It’d be lovely to win tomorrow, but it’s one step at a time.”

Nineteen-year-old Leaving Certificate student Thomas Higgins was a leading member of the Roscommon team that won the Fred Daly Trophy in 2019.

Ulster Boys champion in 2018, he birdied the 19th to defeat Scotland’s Andrew Benson, then cruised to a 5&3 win over Ballybofey and Stranorlar’s Ryan Griffin.

“The West is the first men’s event I heard about as a young golfer, so it would be great to win,” Higgins said. “I was pretty steady in qualifying, but I was down for most of the morning against Andrew and then made a lot of good par putts to beat Ryan.”

Hill now faces NUIG student Nolan, who birdied the 18th from around seven feet to go in front for the only time in the match as he beat Irish Close and Open champion Peter O’Keeffe by one hole.

He then edged out Malone international Matthew McClean by the same margin in another high-quality match in the quarter-finals, hitting a crucial nine-iron close at the 14th to go two-up and leave himself some wriggle room.

He would lose the 16th to McClean’s ten footer for par but got up and down from 25 yards short of the 17th before closing out the match with a solid four at the last after the Ulsterman bunkered his approach.

“It would be incredible,” Nolan said of what it would mean to win. “The West is the one, isn’t it? I love coming here. I’ve been coming here to caddie since I was ten, so I’ll just try and play more good golf and we’ll see if I can come out on top.”

Higgins must get past 24-year old Bray star Alan Fahy, last year’s South of Ireland runner-up, if he’s to make it an all-Connacht final.

“I’ll be wearing my Leinster gear here tomorrow anyway, so hopefully, I can take it home,” joked Fahy, who is hoping to spoil the party after he beat Tandragee’s James Hewitt 3&1 before edging out Carton House’s Keith Egan by one hole in the afternoon where he went one up after hitting a stellar five iron to 12 feet at the 17th and watched his opponent three-putt.

“It would be unreal to win the West. I won the Munster Strokeplay a few years ago, and to win one of the big five championships would be a different category, but you can’t think that far ahead.”

Connolly’s Audi West of Ireland Amateur Championship, Co Sligo GC

Round 1: A Hill (Roscommon) bt C Rafferty (Dundalk) 5&4; H Foley (Royal Dublin) bt M Boucher (Carton House) 1 hole; L Nolan (Galway) bt P O'Keeffe (Douglas) 1 hole; M McClean (Malone) bt E Sullivan (Carton House) 1 hole; T Higgins (Roscommon) bt A Benson (West Lothian) 19th; R Griffin (Ballybofey & Stranorlar) bt A Mulholland (Castlerock) 2&1; A Fahy (Bray) bt J Hewitt (Tandragee) 3&1; K Egan (Carton House) bt E McCormack (Galway Bay) 1 hole.

Quarter Finals:

Hill bt Foley 4&2; Nolan bt McClean 1 hole; Higgins bt Griffin 5&3; Fahy bt Egan 1 hole.

Semi-finals: (8pm) Hill v Nolan; (8.15) Higgins v Fahy.

Final: 1.15 pm