Defending champion Bleakley meets Murray in Lahinch last 16

Bleakley says local favourite Pat Murray, who won in 2012, is ‘just a name on the board’

Reputations count for nothing in the "South" and neither do friendships. Just ask defending champion Stuart Bleakley, who will face 2012 champion and local favourite Pat Murray in this morning's last 16.

“It is just a name on the board to me,” 20-year old Bleakley said coldly. “I will go out and see what happens. I’m hitting it well.”

Murray, the oldest remaining player, celebrated his 44th birthday with a brace of wins and the Limerick veteran, who ended years of heartbreak with his victory three years ago, feels good after overcoming Kirkistown Castle’s Jonathan Breen by one hole and Galgorm Castle’s Michael Reid 3 and 1 on another day of squally shower and strong, northwest winds at the pristine Co Clare links.

“I can do it again,” Murray said. “If this wind keeps up it is not going to be blistering golf that’s going to win. Pars are your friend here.”

The Limerick-based Tipperary man was level par for his front nine and one up. And he then showed how dangerous a man he can be after a half in bogey at the 10th, he mixed pars at the 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th with birdies at the 12th, 16th and 17th.

The bad news is that not only does Bleakley have a hungry look, but the field is bristling with impressive young guns. The top half of the draw looks particularly strong with Carton House’s Keith Egan coming back from three down with five to go to beat Hermitage’s Rowan Lester on the 20th.

The bad news for Egan is meeting lead qualifier Paul McBride and the 19-year-old from The Island looks like the man to beat after Warrenpoint’s Colm Campbell fell at the first hurdle to Conor Coyne of Youghal, who later fell to Muskerry’s Niall Gorey at the 18th.

Showed class

McBride was two down after seven but showed his class on the back nine to beat Gorey’s Muskerry clubmate Shane Whooley with a birdie at the last before cruising to a 4 and 3 win over Warrenpoint’s William Hanna. McBride, made birdies at the fourth and fifth followed by four in a row from the 11th to close out his match with Ulster interprovincial Hanna.

“I think Lahinch suits my game. You don’t actually have to be too straight off the tee but you have to be good with your irons and usually I am good with my irons.”

Friendship counts for nothing though and Tullamore’s East of Ireland champion Stuart Grehan birdied the 17th and 18th to take Esker’s Hills Alan Lowry, his close pal and Maynooth University teammate to extra holes.

He reduced the 20th to a drive, an eight iron and two putts to set up a last 16 showdown with New Forest’s Dessie Morgan while there were also wins for Cian Geraghty, Eanna Griffin, John Conroy, Colin Fairweather, Gary O’Flaherty, Gary Collins, Tiarnan McLarnon, Jeff Hopkins, Mark MacGrath and Niall Gorey.

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