Grehan and Murray head South line-up

Stuart Grehan and Pat Murray are amongst the big names competing in the South of Ireland, which begins in Lahinch this morning.

The pair impressed in the Senior Interprovincials at Lee Valley this week but, disappointingly, only 21 of the 32 involved will feature in Clare and their absence will arouse renewed debate about the dates for the event.

The championship falls at an extremely busy point of the season but as it was deemed the last opportunity for candidates to push their claims for an Irish team place, the quality of entry was usually up there with the best.

However, there is now a strong suspicion among the elite players that the Irish selection is a done deal before Lahinch and as a result many opt again competing. Supporting their argument is the fact that none of the last three “South” champions, John Greene, Stephen Walsh and Murray, or any of the three beaten finalists, Kelan McDonagh, Andre Hogan and Stephen Healy, were chosen for Ireland in those years.

It is good to note, however, that Grehan, last year’s Irish Youths champion and the highest points scorer in the Interpros with 5½ from a possible six, is in the field along with Lahinch expert Murray (who took 5 out of six including all three singles in his 100th appearance for Munster).

Predictably enough, on a geographical basis, Munster and Connacht are best represented from the interpros. A strong Munster quartet features Murray (Limerick), Niall Gorey (Muskerry), Gary O’Flaherty (Cork) and Kieran Lynch (Skibbereen) while the Connacht contingent includes McDonagh (Athlone), Barry Anderson (Royal Dublin), Alex Gleeson (Castle), last year’s runner-up Stephen Healy (Claremorris) and Gary McDermott (Co Sligo).

Leinster’s big name representatives include Robbie Cannon (Balbriggan), the 2009 champion and this year’s Irish Amateur Open winner, along with Brian Casey (Ardee), runner-up in the prestigious Brabazon Trophy earlier this season, and Tullamore’s Grehan.

Nicky Grant (Knock) is the only current Ulster player in the field.

Grant has been drawn in a particularly difficult second quarter that also includes Robbie Cannon, Stephen Walsh (Portmarnock), the winner two years ago, and Colin Fairweather (Knock), a semi-finalist in 2012.

Brian Casey and Stuart Grehan look the best bet in the first quarter while Pat Murray is seeded to come through in the third. 2006 winner Simon Ward of Co Louth will be well fancied in the fourth quarter.

128 of the higher handicap brigade get the championship under way today when the best match may well be the clash of the fine Cork Golf Club golfer Ian O’Flynn up against the pride of Lee Valley Greg O’Mahony after he claimed five points out of six in the Boys Interpros. The surviving 64 go through to tomorrow’s second round.

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