Darragh Coghlan and Richard Knightly to set aside friendship

Childhood pals will battle for a place in the final of the South of Ireland Amateur Open

Childhood pals Darragh Coghlan and Richard Knightly will put their long friendship aside for a few hours this morning to battle for a place in the final of the Clare Coast Hotels-sponsored South of Ireland Amateur Open at Lahinch.

The Dubliners, who have been friends since the age of 12 and even share a coach in former amateur great Noel Fox, square off with the satisfaction of knowing that one of them will get a chance to challenge Shandon Park's Stuart Bleakley or Waterford's Eanna Griffin for the grand prize.

"It's great to have a chance," said 26-year old Pharmacy graduate Knightly from Royal Dublin, who was surgical around the greens, getting up and down six times in a row to turn two up before chipping in for an outrageous birdie at the 15th to lay the foundation of a 3 and 2 win over club mate Ian O'Rourke.

“We came here saying it would be great to have a run this week and now one of us will be in the final. It would be nice if one of us could go all the way.”

A former member of Royal Dublin, 25-year old Coghlan now plays out of Portmarnock and credits Clontarf coaches Eamonn Brady and Bryan Omelia for the improvement in his long game and Fox for transforming his prowess with the wedges.

He was certainly impressive as he beat Castle's Alex Gleeson on the 16th and then despatched 18-year old schoolboy Andrew Magee from Powerscourt and Dun Laoghaire by 5 and 4 in the afternoon.

Recently graduated from Trinity with a degree in Experimental Physics, Coghlan has improved rapidly over the past two years but he joked that friendship will be put aside today when he faxes Knightly.

"We are best mates and have been for the last 15 years," he said of Knightly. "It'll be the friendliest semi-final ever but I'll be going for it all guns blazing. I got to the quarters in the North where I lost to Chris Selfridge, who went on to win it. So I'm trending the right way. It'll be fun."

Neither man will fancy their opponent in the final with the powerfully built, 19-year old Shandon Park player Bleakley, a son of PGA professional Geoff Bleakley, who crushed 2009 champion Robbie Cannon 8 and 6.

“There’s not a lot you can do about that,” Cannon said of being on the receiving end of an eagle and six birdies. “I ran into a train, unfortunately.”

Rated a 150-1 chance by the bookies before the start, Bleakley's putter added an extra dimension to an already impressive long game and he's dreaming of following in the footsteps of some Shandon Park greats here - David Long and Neil Anderson.

He won’t have it easy against 21-year old Griffin, who has not had to go beyond the 16th hole all week.

Griffin gave Naas’ Conor O’Rourke, who ended 63-year old Arthur Pierse’s run by 5 and 4 in the morning, little room for manoeuvre with a clinical 3 and 2 victory.