Hoey among qualifying hopefuls


GOLF: Nine Irishmen are among the 245 competitors, both amateur and professional, who will tee off today at two venues in north-east Spain and one in south-west France, attempting to get through the 72-hole second stage of the European Tour Qualifying School.

Those who get through then face next week's six-round finals, to be played at the Pals and Emporda clubs on the Costa Brava, where they would join Damien McGrane and Gary Murphy, exempt into finals for finishing between 16th and 45th on the Challenge Tour Order of Merit.

Walker Cup star Michael Hoey, one of the nine, is perhaps best remembered for a final round 64 in the 2001 Scottish Open where he tied 11th. Hoey has found it hard going in the professional ranks, competing in a dozen tournaments on the main tour and four on the Challenge Tour with little success this year.

He is joined by amateurs Andrew McCormick from Scrabo and Athlone's Colm Moriarty, all three competing at the tough tour-owned course, PGA de Catalunya, south of Gerona.

North of the city of Figueres, famous for its Dali museum, Royal Dublin's Eamonn Brady and Bainbridge's Raymond Burns join former European Amateur champion Paddy Gribben at Peralada, while across the border at St Cyprien to the west of Perpignan Daniel Sugrue from Killarney is joined by fellow amateur Graeme Browne and Gary Cullen.

Those within eight shots of the final qualifying place after the third round on Saturday night will make the cut, and around 30 players will progress from each course after Sunday's final rounds to the finals, where along with the exempt players they will make up a field of 168.