It might be eight years since Joe Lyons won "the West" but he's still hungry for victories and admits he'll be giving his all in search of the prestigious Mullingar Electrical Scratch Trophy when he takes a two-stroke lead into the final 36 holes today.
A native of Co Offaly but well-established in the City of Tribes, the 43-year-old former West of Ireland champion showed just why he’s been Connacht’s top scorer in four of the last five interprovincial matches when he added a 70 to his opening 67 to lead the field on seven under par.
“I’m pretty surprised,” Lyons said. “I’ve been showing glimpses of good golf recently but I haven’t been putting the whole package together. When it goes, it goes. But when it’s on, it’s on and I hit it lovely today.”
An opening 67 featuring four birdies, one bogey and an eagle three from 20 feet at the 14th, left the 2007 West of Ireland champion one stroke adrift of Castle's Daniel Holland, the 2013 winner, who opened up with a 66 only to follow it with a 73.
In contrast to some of his recent events, Lyons kept his foot on the accelerator in the afternoon, carding a two under 70 to head the field by two strokes on seven under from Holland and the in-form South of Ireland runner-up
, from Knock, who followed a 71 with a four under 68.
Lyons said he felt things slipping away after lunch when he followed a brace of early birdies at the fifth and sixth with a double bogey six at the seventh, where he smothered his second and had to take a penalty drop.
After another dropped shot at the 10th, he dug deep and birdied the 14th, 15th and 16th coming in to head the field on seven under 137.
But even with a two-shot lead over Holland and Fairweather and a three-shot advantage over Dundalk’s Caolan Rafferty, who carded a pair of 70s to sit alone in fourth on four under, Lyons knows there’s a long way to go.
“To be honest, I let the Irish Mid-Amateur slip with a round to go six weeks ago. I thought I was home and hosed and I collapsed. So I am taking nothing for granted against this field.
“Success has been thin on the ground for me for the last few years but I will be giving it my best shot. Mullingar to me is one of the majors and I’d love to put my name on that trophy, that’s for sure.”
Fairweather will be keen to capitalise on a purple patch of form that led to his recent call up for duty in the Home Internationals later this month.
Rafferty, a semi-finalist in last month's North, is a serious threat, while Lyons will be aware of his fellow Galway and Connacht team-mate Ronan Mullarney, who carded a 67 – best of the afternoon – to share fifth on two under with Co Sligo's Sean Flanagan, Portmarnock's James Fox, Dundalk's Aaron Grant and Esker Hills' Alan Lowry, younger brother of 2008 winner Shane Lowry.