McNamara stars for Ireland

DEREK McNAMARA produced one of the best stroke-play qualifying rounds in Gdansk, Poland yesterday to put Ireland in a strong position to clinch one of the places in the top matchplay flight.

McNamara struck the ball superbly from tee and fairway and chipped and putted accurately for a marvellous two-under 70. The Connemara man was well supported by Shandon Park's Alistair McKinley, who got to the turn in a sizzling 31 but finished up with a 71 and Robert McCarthy, the Dublinner who plays out of The Island club.

McCarthy was round in 72, meaning three Irish players were par or better. Ireland's five-player aggregate was 364, eight behind joint leaders England and Spain. They are in fourth place going into the second and final qualifying round today but only five strokes separate them from the 10th country only eight after today have a chance of taking the title. The Irish also are in with a shout of making the top flight in the European Boys' Team Championship in Reykjavik, Iceland. They lie in 10th spot, five strokes behind the eighth-placed country Scotland.

Tramore's Clancy Bowe was the best of the Irish boys, returning a 74. Gareth Shaw of Lurgan took 78 and David Rawluk of The Island a stroke more. The team finished the day with an aggregate of 391.

Meanwhile, it was a disappointing day in the European U-21 Ladies' Team Championship in Moscow. Ireland are last of the 13 competing nations and will need a miracle to take them into the top flight.

Beaverstown's Martina Gillen returned 76 and Maria Dunne (Skerries) shot a 77 but the total of 394 leaves the Irish 11 strokes outside the top eight.

Germany lead the way in Moscow with a total of 362 appropriately European Champion Martina Eberl was their hero with a one-under 71.

Day one of the Philip Walton Dundrum House Pro-Am saw a record-breaking score for the event. The best team score of 98 in 2002 was shot by The Tony Lacey Team, which included: Cathal Barry (Pro Donabate), Tony Lacey (off 11), David Maher (off 10) and Ronan Wade (off 15) all from Dundrum.

Philip Walton, Martin Sludds, Neil Manchip and Brendan McGovern all finished at 2 under par, with a score of 70. Threatening the four leaders one shot behind are Finian Dwyer, Stephen Hamill, Eddie Doyle and Geoff Loughrey. Cathal Barry, Hughie O'Neill and Jimmy Heggarty came in at par.

European Tour Pro Eamonn Darcy (+4) participated in the opening day at the Dundrum House Pro Am along with leading celebrities Pat Shortt, Alan Quinlan, Charlie Swan and Mick Kinane. In all, 46 teams are competing.

With a prize fund of 35,000, the third biggest on the Irish PGA circuit, there is still a lot to play for in tomorrow's final round.

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